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Telecommunications Relay & Captioned Telephone Services

  • Published: 2012-04-07 (Revised/Updated 2016-03-03) : Author: Wendy Taormina-Weiss : Contact: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: Telecommunications Relay Service gives people with a hearing or speech disability the opportunity to place or receive telephone calls.
Captioned Telephone

A telephone that displays real-time captions of the current conversation. The captions are typically displayed on a screen embedded into the telephone base. A Captioned Telephone looks and works like an amplified telephone, but everything your caller says is displayed in text, word-for-word while you are listening to the speaker. A captioned telephone may also be called a CapTel, which is the main brand name for a captioned telephone. A CapTel can also function exactly like a VCO by switching the device to VCO mode, for example, to communicate with an HCO user directly, without relay.

Main Document

"IP Captioned Telephone Service gives people the opportunity to use a computer or another similar device instead of a specialized captioned telephone to make captioned telephone calls."

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled that every IP Captioned Telephone Service call could be compensated from the Interstate TRS Fund. What this means is that as with every TRS call - the relay costs related to IP Captioned Telephone Services are not paid for by the people using them. The FCC doesn't mandate the provision of IP Captioned Telephone Services, so it is pretty much up to different states and communities to provide them. The FCC says that considering the way these services work, they are exempt from certain mandatory standards which include three-way calling, emergency 911 service, and speed-dialing.

A person referred to as a, 'communications assistant (CA),' relays the person with a disability's call back and forth between them and the person they are calling.

For example; my husband Tom (who has a hearing impairment), can communicate through text with a CA.

The CA then communicates using their voice to me on the telephone, repeating what Tom has typed, and then types what I say to Tom.

There are a number of different types of TRS that people can use depending upon the nature of the disability they experience, and whether or not they have some hearing or speech abilities.

TRS types include the following:

IP Captioned Telephone Service

IP Captioned Telephone Service is basically a combination of two forms of TRS - IP Relay, and Captioned Telephone Service. Captioned Telephone Service uses a specially-designed telephone that includes a screen to display the text of captions that another person in the conversation is saying. The screen gives the person who experiences a hearing loss, yet who also wants to use their own voice, the ability to speak directly to the person they are calling and then listen to the extent they can to the person they are calling, as well as to read captions of what the person they are calling is saying.

IP Captioned Telephone Service is different from traditional TRS, which uses typed text. Instead of using typed text, a CA repeats what is said. Speech recognition technology automatically transcribes the CA's voice into text, transmitting it directly to the user's captioned telephone text display.

IP Captioned Telephone Service makes use of the Internet instead of the telephone network in order to provide captions of what another party is saying to a caller. While the service may be provided in various ways, a person who has the ability to speak, as well as some residual hearing, might make a voice-to-voice call to another person on a standard phone using a regular telephone network. The party who is being called and their response is directed from the caller's telephone to a personal computer, or another similar device, which then routes it to the IP Captioned Telephone Service provider through the Internet. The Service Provider then sends back to the caller's computer text that was spoken over the regular phone network, simultaneously reading the text that is routed over the Internet to the person's computer or other device.

IP Relay Service

IP Relay Service is a text-based form of TRS and involves a CA who voices what a person types. The CA then types what the party the person is calling has said. Unlike traditional TRS, the first part of the call; the text, goes from the computer or other Web-enabled device of the person who is making the call to an IP Relay center through the Internet instead of the regular phone network. To make a call, a person accesses an IP Relay provider through a web page. Just the same as traditional TRS, the next part of an IP Relay call involves a CA who calls the party the person desires to communicate with through a voice telephone network.

The Benefits of Using Captioned Telephone Service

IP Captioned Telephone Service gives people the opportunity to use a computer or another similar device instead of a specialized captioned telephone to make captioned telephone calls. Due to this opportunity, the service may become more widely available. Even more - the service takes advantage of the increasing availability of computers and Internet connections in work places, giving people who experience hearing loss more opportunity to effectively use the phone while they are at work. Another bonus is that captions can be displayed on a computer screen in any number of fonts and colors as well as various text sizes - meaning people who experience hearing loss as well as vision impairment can be accommodated too.

What about Emergency Calls

While the FCC has stated that considering the way these services work, they are exempt from mandatory standards including 911 services well...the FCC has adopted certain, 'interim procedures,' related to emergency calls. The interim procedures the FCC has adopted for IP Captioned Telephone Services require that at minimum, they automatically and immediately transfer emergency calls to an appropriate 911 Call Center, or assure that appropriate personnel are notified in the case of an emergency.

IP Captioned Telephone Services also have to prioritize emergency calls over what are considered to be non-emergency calls. They have to provide emergency personnel with the name of the TRS user, as well as the location of the emergency, the name of the provider, and the CA's call-back and ID number. IP Captioned Telephone Services, in the case of an emergency, also have to re-establish contact with the caller and emergency personnel if the call is disconnected.

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