The Telecommunications Relay Service, or TRS, is a federally mandated, free
service in The United States for phone calls between hearing people and people
who have difficulty hearing or speaking. As computers have replaced TTYs, TRS
has transitioned from relaying calls between TTYs and regular phones to providing
service for IP relay calls over Internet connections to regular phones. However,
this form of relay still includes typing text. The Deaf person types on a computer
instead of on a TTY.
Along with TRS, with the proliferation of high speed Internet access and video
phones, the Deaf community also has Video Relay Service, or VRS, for relay calls
that use ASL instead of typed English. A relay operator signs to a VP user over
an Internet video chat, and relays the conversation to a hearing person on a
Calling a TTY
If the deaf, hard of hearing, or mute person you want to call had a TTY (also
known as a TDD), you would first need to call a relay operator. Dial 711 anywhere
in the United States to reach the relay service. If you forgot the 711 number
to the relay service, you could always look up the local number in the phonebook.
The operator (sometimes referred to as the "relayer") would ask you
for the number of the TTY user you wish to call, and the operator would dial
it for you. Once the person you were calling answered the TTY, the relayer would
speak as if he or she was the TTY user, saying exactly what the TTY user typed.
You should speak as if you're talking directly to the TTY user. Don't say things
like, "Tell her I am going to be there," or "Can you tell him
I'm going to be late?" The relayer would type exactly what you say. Remember
to speak slowly and clearly enough for the relayer to type what you're saying.
At the beginning of the conversation, identify yourself or else the relayer
will just type that a male or female is talking. Also, remember that the relayer
will type any other sounds he or she hears. You cannot flush the toilet, thinking
that the TTY user you are calling will not be aware of it because they are deaf.
When calling a TTY user, you would need to take turns talking, similar to using
two-way radios. When the TTY user is done typing what they want to say, he or
she will type "GA," and the relayer will say to you, "Go ahead."
Then it is your turn to speak. When you are done talking, say "Go ahead."
When the TTY user is ready to end the conversation and hang up, he or she will
type "GA to SK," meaning "Go ahead to stop keying," and
the relayer will tell you that the person is ready to hang up. If you are ready
to hang up too, just thank them and say goodbye before hanging up.
However, if you have something more to say, you can continue the conversation.
If you want to end the conversation, after you are done with your turn talking,
say, "Go ahead to stop keying." When the TTY user hangs up, they will
type "SK" or "SKSK," and the relayer will tell you the person
is hanging up.
Calling a Video Phone
As video phone (VP) and Internet technology is much more advanced than the
old TTY system, unlike calling a TTY user where you would need to call the relay
service and tell them the number of the TTY to dial, you can dial a video phone
number directly, and you will automatically be connected to a relay operator
who will already have the number of the video phone dialed. You do not need
to tell the video relay operator the video phone number.
Also, because the relayer and the VP user are signing to each other while the
relayer is talking to you on a headset, unlike typing back and forth on a TTY
relay call, you do not have to take turns talking and say, "Go ahead"
when you are done speaking. However, there will be a very slight delay or lag
in between responses due to the time necessary to interpret being the two languages.
Despite those two significant differences between calling a TTY user and calling
a VP user, it is important to remember that the other rules of relay etiquette
still apply. You should still identify yourself at the beginning of the conversation,
you should still address the deaf person directly instead of in the third person,
you should still speak clearly, and you should remember the relayer will sign
everything you say. Also, remember that the relayer will sign any other sounds
he or she hears, so no bathroom breaks or activities you wouldn't do during
a phone conversation with a hearing person.
Receiving Relay Calls
If someone calls you via relay, the operator will explain that he or she from
the relay service and has a phone call from a person using IP relay or a video
phone. The operator will ask if you have received a relay call before. Unfortunately,
many people who are not used to receiving relay calls mistake relay for a sales
call and hang up. This can be frustrating to members of the Deaf community.
Listen closely, and if you forget how to have a conversation using relay, simply
ask for instructions, and the operator will assist you.
That may sound more difficult than what you're used to using the phone, but
just imagine how deaf people must use relay to call hearing people every day.
Also, many deaf people really appreciate you contacting them directly instead
of always relying on their hearing friends to relay messages to them. For one
thing, it allows them to be involved in planning and decision making. Other
means of telecommunications you can use to contact deaf people include text
messaging, email, and instant messaging (IM).