Happy Retirement, Arva!

  • Dec 1, 2016
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  • publicrelationsdept

When Arva Priola, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Coordinator of the disAbility Resource Center, lost her hearing in 1989, she retired from teaching and began researching ways to help herself through this difficult time. She discovered the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) and within a month she had started a local chapter, the Hearing Loss Association of Rappahannock. It was here that she met Faith Smith, who offered her a job at the disAbility Resource Center doing outreach for Virginia Relay’s Telecommunications Assistance Program (TAP), helping people obtain assistive telecommunications equipment throughout Virginia. Just when she thought her life was over, she realized it had just begun.

Arva, who is retiring at the end of 2016, has accomplished much in her 20-year career, receiving multiple awards and honors for her work and advocacy. But of all her achievements, three stand out. First, is the Visor Alert Program, which protects people with hearing loss during traffic stops by enabling communication with law enforcement. Virginia adopted the program statewide after running a pilot program in 2002. Second, are the guidelines for communication access in hospitals, which were established by House Bill 1956, and passed by the general assembly and signed by the governor in 2015. Third, is establishing the Virginia Relay Advisory Council alongside Cheryl Heppner.

“Virginia Relay and TAP keep us connected to the world and prevent us from becoming isolated,” says Arva. “And I am honored to have had the opportunity to work with them to help touch so many lives.”

And while it was a difficult decision to retire, she knows that this is not the end, but rather another new beginning. So how does she plan to spend her retirement? First on her list is visiting her new grandson, Landon, in Washington, and secondly to breed her French bull dogs who she loves very much. We at Virginia Relay would like to wish her all the best and let her know that she always has a home here.

SIT Hosts Deaf Awareness Week Open House

  • Oct 15, 2016
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  • publicrelationsdept

This September during Deaf Awareness Week, the Statewide Interagency Team (SIT) of Virginia hosted an open house at the VDDHH and Virginia Department for Aging and
Rehabilitative Services (DARS) offices in Richmond. Guests watched demonstrations of the latest assistive communications technologies, and met representatives from local agencies and organizations dedicated to meeting the needs of Virginians who are deaf, hard of hearing, late-deafened and DeafBlind.

Thanks to everyone who attended!

The Statewide Interagency Team of Virginia

Elizabeth Spiers of the Virginia DBVI promoting the iCanConnect program for people who are DeafBlind.

Eric Raff, VDDHH Deputy Director with Linda Thornton and Paige Berry of the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired (DBVI).

Our team of interpreters.

Ron Lanier, VDDHH Director, with Paige Berry of the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired.

Creed Leffler

At Virginia Relay, we strive to make telecommunications more accessible, not just for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, but for everyone who has difficulty making telephone calls. We also offer specialized Relay services – including Hearing Carry-Over and Speech-to-Speech – for individuals who have difficulty speaking on the phone.

Creed Leffler lives in Norfolk and works as a disability advocate. Creed’s speech is limited due to cerebral palsy, and he often uses Virginia Relay Speech-to-Speech (STS) service when he makes telephone calls. STS is specifically designed for people with mild to moderate speech difficulty who can hear clearly over the phone.

“My speech changes day by day, so some days I have to use STS more than others,” he says. During an STS call, a specially trained Virginia Relay Communications Assistant (CA) listens to everything Creed says, and repeats it to the other party as needed. When the other person responds, Creed listens directly to what is said.

Creed finds STS most useful to him when he is sharing important information over the phone that he wants written down.

“STS is particularly good when I’m ordering food, because I can give the CA my order before I call the restaurant. That way I don’t have to worry about the person at the restaurant, who may be busy and doesn’t know me, hanging up on me,” he says.

STS users have a number of options to customize their calls to their personal preference. They can choose to communicate with their own voice, voice synthesizer, voice enhancer or other assistive voice device. Users can also choose to have their voice muted to the other party (STS with Privacy), or request that the CA assist only when needed. Virginia Relay also offers STS for Spanish speakers, and Visually Assisted STS, which allows the CA to see the user through a Skype™ connection.

Creed says that it’s important to know that people who use STS are just like everyone else.

“We’re just normal people that need a little bit more help,” he says.

To learn more about STS from Virginia Relay, contact Virginia Relay Customer Care at 1-866-894-4116 (voice) or 1-866-246-9300 (TTY) or visit varelay.org.

Skype™ is a trademark of Skype. Virginia Relay and Hamilton Relay are not affiliated, sponsored, authorized or otherwise associated with the Skype group of companies.

Designed for people who are deaf or hard of hearing and can speak for themselves, CapTel works like any other telephone – with one important difference. Using the latest in voice recognition software, the CapTel phone displays every word the other person says. So you can listen to what is being said while reading word-for-word captions of your conversation on the CapTel phone’s display screen.

Best of all, the captioned telephone service is free*!

CapTel phones are available in a variety of models to best meet your needs. All models feature a brightly-lit display screen for captions with adjustable font sizes and colors. All models also include indicator lights, speed dial, answering machine, and Caller ID.

Use this helpful guide to determine which CapTel phone is right for you:

CapTel® 840
Requires analog telephone service

Choose the CapTel 840 if:

  • You have difficulty hearing over the phone, but can speak for yourself.
  • You do not have Internet access.
  • You have analog telephone service. If you are not aware of what telephone service you have, please contact your telephone service provider.
  • You prefer traditional buttons when navigating on-screen menus.
  • You like the size and feel of a traditional home phone.

CapTel® 840i
Connects to both your telephone service and Internet service

Choose the CapTel 840i if:

  • You have difficulty hearing over the phone, but can speak for yourself.
  • You have both telephone service and high-speed Internet access (cable, DSL, Ethernet or WiFi).
  • You prefer traditional buttons when navigating on-screen menus.
  • You like the size and feel of a traditional home phone.

CapTel® 880i
Designed for people with low vision or who have difficulty reading standard-sized captions

Choose the CapTel 880i if:

  • You have difficulty hearing over the phone, but can speak for yourself.
  • You have low-vision or difficulty reading standard-sized captions.
  • You have both telephone service and high-speed Internet access (cable, DSL, Ethernet or WiFi).
  • You prefer traditional buttons when navigating on-screen menus.
  • You like the size and feel of a traditional home phone.

CapTel® 2400i
Designed for people who are comfortable with touch-screen technology

Choose the CapTel 2400i if:

  • You have difficulty hearing over the phone, but can speak for yourself.
  • You have both telephone service and high-speed Internet access (cable, DSL, Ethernet or WiFi).
  • You prefer touch-screen navigation for on-screen menus.
  • You prefer BlueTooth connectivity or Speakerphone capability.
  • You like the size and feel of a contemporary phone.

All CapTel phone models are available to Virginia residents for a special rate of just $75. No-cost and reduced-price CapTel phones are also available to those who qualify through the Technology Assistance Program (TAP), administered by the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (VDDHH).

For more information, or to obtain your CapTel phone, please call VDDHH at 1-800-552-7917 (V/TTY).

CapTel is a registered trademark of Ultratec, Inc.

*Long distance charges may apply.

Remote Conference Captioning Now Available In Virginia

  • May 15, 2016
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  • publicrelationsdept

If you have difficulty hearing what’s said during conference calls, there is a new service available in Virginia to help you never miss a word of an important conversation again: Remote Conference Captioning (RCC).

RCC allows people who are deaf or hard of hearing to have a clearer understanding of conversations and participate in conference calls in a more effective manner. RCC delivers word-for-word captions over the Internet, using Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) service to convert speech to text as it is spoken.

To use RCC, you need access to a conference bridge to allow the certified captionist to listen to the audio portion of the call. You also need access to an Internet-connected computer, tablet or smartphone in order to view the captions. You do not need to download any software, only click a link to view the captions in your web browser. Captions show up just seconds after someone has spoken, allowing for seamless conversations.

RCC is already getting great reviews from Virginia Relay users. Nancy Anderson, who works for the Training and Technical Assistance Center at George Mason University, is using RCC to improve her conference calls at work, and is thrilled with the results.

“As a hard of hearing business person, I have been wanting a free conference captioning service for years now,” she says. “I have used the Virginia Relay RCC service twice now and I love it! It was so easy to request it and then the relay operators did a wonderful job capturing everything people on my conference call were saying. I plan to use it again and again!”

Betti Thompson, executive director of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Center, agrees.

“My experience with RCC is incredible. It’s like having your own CART on the computer screen or tablet. It keeps up to speed and is very accurate. I’m very excited for the RCC feature and I can’t wait to use it again during my next conference call,” she says.

Available to Virginia residents who are deaf or hard of hearing, RCC is an optional relay service that is funded and provided by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Virginia’s contracted service provider, Hamilton Relay, also provides RCC in one other of its contracted states, Montana. It is important to note that these services are to be used through a teleconference call and is not a replacement for remote CART.

To request RCC services for your next conference call, simply complete a RCC Scheduling Request Form at www.hamiltonrelay.com/rcc, or call Virginia RCC Customer Care at 1-877-339-2665 (Voice). Virginia Relay users are guaranteed access to RCC services if scheduled at least 24 hours in advance. RCC services can be scheduled within a two-hour notice for emergency situations but are not guaranteed.

Take advantage of Remote Conference Captioning for your next conference call. To learn more, please contact Virginia RCC Customer Care at 1-877-339-2665 (Voice) or varelaycc@hamiltonrelay.com.

The Speech, Language, and Hearing Services staff at Longwood University.

Virginia Relay and the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (VDDHH) are proud to announce a new partnership with the Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Services at Longwood University in Farmville. Under the partnership, Longwood University is now an official outreach site for Virginia’s Technology Assistance Program (TAP), which provides no-cost adaptive telecommunication equipment to qualified applicants who are deaf, hard of hearing, Deafblind or who have difficulty speaking.

As an outreach site, members of the local community are now able to visit Longwood University to apply for equipment through TAP. Applicants are also evaluated by graduate students of the university’s Communications Sciences and Disorders program to ensure they receive the technology that is best suited to meet their needs. Students are supervised by the university’s faculty and clinical supervisors, who are nationally-certified and Commonwealth of Virginia-licensed audiology professionals.

Since the program was first introduced last summer, more than 15 people have applied for and/or been evaluated for equipment at Longwood University. The school currently has 14 different pieces of telecommunications equipment on site for demonstration by both students and TAP applicants.

“This is the first time VDDHH has partnered with an audiology department within a state university to expand our TAP outreach efforts, and we are already thrilled with the results,” said Ron Lanier, VDDHH Director. “Now that the talented students and staff at Longwood University are part of our outreach team, we are better able to serve the deaf and hard-of-hearing community in Farmville and the surrounding areas.”

“Because of this partnership, the deaf and hard-of-hearing community in this region will have access to the latest technologies so they can receive the best assistive equipment for them,” said Mani Aguilar, Au.D., CCC-A, Clinical Audiologist – Communications Sciences and Disorders; Speech, Language, and Hearing Services; Longwood University. “Working with VDDHH is also a boon for our Communications Sciences and Disorders students who will be familiar with the latest telecommunications technologies available for people who are unable to use a telephone.”

To learn more about TAP, please visit www.varelay.org. Residents of the Farmville area who would like assistance applying for equipment through TAP may contact Dr. Mani Aguilar at the Longwood Speech, Hearing, and Learning Services, 434-395-2341 or aguilarmc@longwood.edu.

Meet Frazelle Hampton, CapTel Outreach Coordinator

  • Jan 4, 2016
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  • publicrelationsdept

Frazelle Hampton

Late last year, Virginia Relay, VDDHH and Hamilton Relay welcomed Frazelle Hampton to our team as Virginia Relay CapTel outreach coordinator. Frazelle provides outreach support and education throughout Virginia to raise awareness of the benefits of CapTel for people who have difficulty hearing over the phone.

Frazelle has a diverse professional background that includes administrative, training and teaching roles. Prior to joining Virginia Relay, she was most recently a mortgage default foreclosure specialist for a major mortgage company.

“I am very much looking forward to working with the public and getting out into the community. I’ll enjoy providing information to help people better understand CapTel and Relay and how to use these services,” she says. “I am excited to join Hamilton Relay and Virginia Relay because they align with my belief that we are here to help serve our community.”

Frazelle is available to provide free exhibits and presentations about CapTel, Virginia Relay, and TAP. For more information, please visit www.varelay.org or contact Frazelle at 804-726-6615 or frazelle.hampton@hamiltonrelay.com.

*CapTel is a registered trademark of Ultratec, Inc.

This week, Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that Virginia is the first state in the nation to functionally end veteran homelessness. This is a great accomplishment for our state. VDDHH, Virginia Relay, and Hamilton Relay share Governor’s McAuliffe’s commitment to supporting our local veterans.

Because we understand that the ability to use a telephone is instrumental to living independently at home, veterans living with a hearing or speech loss are automatically eligible to apply for no-cost telecommunications equipment through Virginia’s Technology Assistance Program (TAP).

Adaptive telecommunications equipment, including text telephones (TTY), captioned telephones (CapTel) and other devices are available to individuals who meet one of the following qualifications:

  • A veteran with a hearing or speech loss and proof of an Honorable Discharge
  • A veteran with a hearing or speech loss and documentation of a service-related disability rating from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
  • A surviving spouse or child of a veteran who was killed in the line of duty and has a hearing or speech loss
  • An active member of the Virginia National Guard who has completed the required initial active-duty service

For more information on TAP for veterans, visit www.VDDHH.org or call 1-800-552-7917.

In addition, Virginia Relay’s contracted service provider, Hamilton Relay, offers the Heroes With Hearing Loss program to raise awareness and initiate meaningful dialog about shared hearing loss experiences among veterans, their families and friends.

Hearing loss is the number one service-related injury affecting veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Heroes With Hearing Loss works to connect these veterans with solutions to help manage the impact of hearing loss and communicate more effectively with family and friends. To learn more about Heroes With Hearing Loss, visit www.HeroesWithHearingLoss.org.

Together, we can ensure that Virginia’s veterans have the support and services they need to continue living in their homes.

Hamilton Relay, Inc. currently has a position open for “Virginia Captioned Telephone Outreach Coordinator” staffed in Richmond, Virginia.

Position summary: This full-time position is responsible for coordinating and implementing outreach activities designed to promote Captioned Telephone Service (CapTel®) for Virginia Captioned Telephone Service (VACTS).  The position requires independent travel throughout the state of Virginia.

Preferred education, experience and skills:

Education and Experience:

  • Bachelor’s degree and two or more years of experience in the design and implementation of public outreach, public relations or related marketing experience are required.
  • Experience in the telecommunication field, Traditional Relay Service or Captioned Telephone Service is a strong plus.


  • Excellent presentation skills
  • Experience in the planning, coordination and delivery of public relations activities
  • Ability to develop effective outreach and educational campaigns
  • Ability to confidently communicate (oral & written) with a wide variety of audiences
  • Ability to plan, schedule and execute multiple projects
  • Ability to understand and follow directions
  • Capacity to develop and maintain effective working relationships with Relay Administrator, organizations within the public, private and non-profit sectors
  • Knowledge of and ability to understand various communication modes used by current and potential relay users
  • Familiarity with the user communities that could benefit from relay services:
    • Senior Community
    • Hard of Hearing Community
  • Able to travel alone
  • Be able to lift up to 50 lbs
  • Captioned Telephone users are encouraged to apply

Interested individuals may apply online at: www.workforhamilton.com or contact Amy Hall in Corporate Human Resource Department by September 11, 2015 at 800.821.1831. Hamilton Relay is an equal opportunity employer. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin or disability.

Hamilton Relay, Inc. is a division of Hamilton Telecommunications based in Aurora, NE. Hamilton offers a competitive wage and full time benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions:

As of July 31, 2015, Virginia Relay welcomes Hamilton Relay as the new Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) provider for Virginia. To help you understand what to expect with this transition, here are responses to a few Frequently Asked Questions:

Is Virginia Relay closing?
No, quite the opposite! Virginia Relay, the free public service that enables people who are deaf, hard of hearing, DeafBlind or have difficulty speaking to communicate with standard telephone users, is still available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We have simply chosen a new service provider. As of July 31, 2015, we begin a new 5-year contract with Hamilton Relay as Virginia’s provider of Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS).

Who is Hamilton Relay?
Hamilton Relay is a division of Hamilton Telecommunications, a diversified telecommunications service provider headquartered in Aurora, Nebraska. Hamilton Relay has provided telecommunications relay services for individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, DeafBlind, or have difficulty speaking since 1991. Including Virginia, Hamilton Relay currently provides TRS and/or CapTel service in 18 states, as well as the District of Columbia and the island of Saipan.

Why did Virginia Relay choose Hamilton Relay as its new service provider?
We chose Hamilton Relay because they have been providing high-quality TRS services across the country for 24 years. And with Hamilton Relay as our TRS provider, we are able to offer Virginia Relay users a host of new features, including 7-1-1 routing and a Speech-to-Speech User Training Line. Hamilton Relay also has a well-established presence in the deaf and hard of hearing community, both nationwide and here in Virginia, as they have been providing CapTel service in Virginia since 2011. With Hamilton Relay as our service provider, we are confident that Virginia Relay will continue to offer our users the highest quality TRS and customer service.

When I dial 7-1-1 to place a Virginia Relay call, who will answer my call?
Now, every Virginia Relay call is routed to one of five Hamilton Relay call centers located across the U.S., and answered by the first available Communication Assistant (CA). All Hamilton Relay CAs receive the same training and follow the same rules and protocols for call handling. That means you can expect each and every call made through Virginia Relay to accommodate personal calling preferences and be processed promptly, professionally and accurately by our specially-trained CAs.

Will I need to create a new Virginia Relay Choice Profile?
No. All of your calling preferences as established in your existing Virginia Relay Choice Profile have been transferred and are automatically available to the Hamilton Relay CA every time you make or receive a call. To create your Virginia Relay Choice Profile, please visit www.varelay.org. To make updates to an existing profile, contact Virginia Relay Customer Care at the number below.

Will Hamilton Relay offer any new features?
Yes! With Hamilton Relay as our TRS provider, Virginia Relay is able to offer more features than ever before. New available features include: 7-1-1 routing, a Speech-to-Speech User Training Line, and Remote Conference Captioning (coming soon). A complete list will soon be available at www.varelay.org.

Will there be a charge for these new features?
No. All of the services and features available from Virginia Relay continue to be free public services, including TRS, and CapTel. Charges still apply to long distance calls.

How do I place a Virginia Relay call?
As always, anyone can make a Virginia Relay call just by dialing 7-1-1. Or, you can use the following phone numbers to reach any of these specific services:

  • TTY (800) 828-1120
  • Voice (800) 828-1140
  • STS (866) 221-6784
  • Visually Assisted STS (800) 855-8220
  • Spanish (800) 855-8200
  • Customer Care TTY (866) 246-9300
  • Customer Care Voice (866) 894-4116

Have more questions?
Feel free to contact Virginia Relay Customer Care:
TTY: 866-246-9300

Voice: 866-894-4116
Email: VARelay@HamiltonRelay.com
Visit: www.varelay.org.

Please note that under Hamilton Relay’s rules and policies, Communication Assistants (CA) are required to relay all comments shared between the calling parties, and are not permitted to respond to comments or questions directed to the CA, or to have side conversations with either party. For assistance in using Virginia Relay, please contact Virginia Relay Customer Care.