How Relay Services Works

Relay services allow deaf people to communicate with friends, family, or business associates who don't have a text telephone (TDD/TTY) or Video Phone (VP). Be rest assured that each call is handled in strict confidence.

Telephone Relay Services

The service provided is using a skilled Communications Assistant (CA) who reads the message to the hearing person at the other end of the call. The CA then relays the hearing person's exact spoken words by typing them back to the TTY user.

Keep in mind that when relaying your call, the CAs will type everything you say and anything that is heard. CAs are trained and instructed in conveying the full content, context, and intent of the relay conversation they translate. All secondary activities that would normally be known to a hearing person engaged in a telephone conversation (i.e. background noises, side conversations, other people coming on the line, etc.) are relayed to the extent possible. For example, the CA may tape background noises that are heard such as "baby crying", "loud radio", "coughing", etc.

Remember that it is the deaf person you are speaking with, not the CA. Do not say: "Tell her that it is very nice of her to call me." Instead, talk directly to the deaf person, such as saying: "Jane, that is very nice of you to call me."

How voice callers can use the Relay Services:

Dial the Relay Service number: 711
You will hear: "______ Relay Service. CA #. May I have the number you are calling, please?"
Give the CA the number you want to call.

While your call is being relayed, talk as though you are speaking directly to the person you called.

Each time you finish speaking, say "Go Ahead" to let the CA know you are ready for the TTY user's response.

When you're ready to end the call you can say something like "I'm done."

CA's are more than happy to explain how to use their service, if you ask.

Video Relay Services

Video Relay Services allows deaf or hard-of-hearing people who use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate through the telephone system with hearing persons using video equipment, rather than through typed text. This service has become widely used.

A deaf or hard-of-hearing caller, using a videophone contacts a VRS. A VRS communications assistant, who is a qualified sign language interpreter, then places a telephone call to the party the VRS user wishes to call. No typing or text is involved. VRS calls are free to the caller.

Video Relay Services have quickly become very popular for several reasons:

  • VRS allows Deaf people to communicate in ASL, their primary language, instead of having to type what they want to say.
  • Since VRS communication is in ASL, users are more able to fully express themselves through facial expressions and body language, which can not be expressed in text.
  • A VRS call flows back and forth just like a telephone conversation between two hearing persons. For example, the parties can interrupt each other.
  • Because the conversation flows more naturally, the conversation can take place much more quickly than with textbased TRS.
Note:

Don't hang up! Many people hang up on relay calls because they think the CA is a telemarketer. If you answer the phone and hear, "Hello, this is ____ Relay Service. Have you received a relay call before?" … please don't hang up. Congratulations! You are about to talk to a deaf person!