Contract Extension will Keep the Relay Center in Norton Open through July 2015, Maintaining the Current Workforce
Governor Terry McAuliffe announced today that a one-year contract extension has been signed with AT&T to maintain traditional telecommunication relay services currently provided by the Relay Center in Norton, Virginia. The Center provides telecommunications access for persons who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, and speech-disabled. The contract extension was recently negotiated by the Virginia Information Technologies Agency in conjunction with the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The extension keeps the Center operational through July 31, 2015.
Speaking today about the announcement, Governor McAuliffe said, “The contract extension provides over $8 million in revenue to the local economy and maintains up to 80 full-time positions at the Relay Center. We look forward to continuing our contractual relationship with AT&T, the Commonwealth’s telecommunications relay provider since 1991. I would also like to thank Senator Phillip Puckett for his leadership on this critical issue for Southwest Virginia.”
The extension also meets or exceeds all current federal standards for the service and preserves the Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing’s certification by the Federal Communications Commission as the Commonwealth’s oversight entity for relay services. The Center processes approximately 1,000 traditional relay calls per day for persons who cannot readily access the standard telephone network.
Ronald Lanier, the Director of the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing commented “With perhaps the most dedicated and experienced relay operators in the nation, the contract extension will continue to provide full access to the standard telephone network for Virginia citizens with communication challenges. The quality of services provided by the Center’s employees distinguishes them from others, and our customers can tell the difference. ” Director Lanier went on to compliment the cooperation shown by AT&T, the efforts of the contracting staff at the Virginia Information Technologies Agency, and the support from the City of Norton in making the extension a reality.
“The quality of the people is why we originally got the relay center here and why it has stayed,” said Fred Ramey, Norton’s Assistant City Manager. “The AT&T Communication Assistants are active volunteers, raise money, give back to the community, and forge a special connection to the deaf and hard of hearing population. The Relay Center has been much more than just a business in town”, Ramey said. “Twenty years ago, the region faced double-digit unemployment. The location of the Center here had an instant impact on quality employment that had not been seen in the area until then”, Ramey recalls. “We are pleased to continue our relationship with both the Commonwealth and AT&T”.
About Virginia Relay and the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
A public service of the Commonwealth, Virginia Relay enables people who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, or speech-disabled to communicate with standard telephone users. The conversation is relayed between two parties by specially-trained communications operators. Relay services are available 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, and by law, are handled with strictest confidentiality. Special features are also available for captioned relay (CapTel®), Spanish-speaking, and sign language users. Virginia Relay services are easily accessible to anyone by dialing 7-1-1 or calling 800-828-1140. The Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing’s (VDDHH) Technology Assistance Program provides the most up-to-date technologies and assistive communication devices for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing including Veterans living with a hearing or speech loss. VDDHH also provides community outreach services and referral, coordination, and skills assessment for sign language interpreters. For more information on Virginia Relay and its calling features, please visit www.varelay.org, or call VDDHH at 800-552-7917 v/tty.
Join Virginia Relay at AMF Hanover Lanes in Mechanicsville, VA from 10:30am – 2:00pm on Saturday, February 22 for a Bowl-A-Thon to benefit Challenge Discovery Projects. Challenge Discovery Projects is committed to improving the emotional health and well-being of at-risk children and their families in Greater Richmond through programs that promote self-worth and positive, healthy relationships. To learn more, visit: www.challengediscoveryprojects.org.
On January 15, 2014 Ronald L. Lanier was reappointed by Governor Terry McAuliffe as Director of Virginia’s Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Also reappointed by Governor McAuliffe were William A. Hazel, Jr., Secretary of Health and Human Resources, Raymond Hopkins, Commissioner of the Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired, and James Rothrock, Commissioner of the Department for Aging and Rehabilitation Services.
“In our first meeting with Governor McAuliffe, he encouraged us to ‘try new things’, and I am looking forward to bringing that mantra to VDDHH,” said Lanier. “Looking ahead, my goals include continuing to delve into newer technologies and increase our Technology Assistance Program offerings as funds allow, as well as expanding our outreach efforts to grow our staff’s presence in the community. Also, through collaborations with our partners, we will work to establish a Communications Access Fund so that we can, in keeping with our mission, increase our impact on reducing communication barriers.”
At its annual meeting in Richmond on October 12, the Virginia Relay Advisory Council (VRAC) elected Ann Olliff as its newest representative from the Virginia Association of the DeafBlind. As a member of VRAC, Ann will represent the needs and concerns of Virginia Relay users who are Deaf-Blind. Ann recently had the opportunity to visit the Helen Keller National Center, a national rehabilitation program serving youth and adults who are Deaf-Blind. While there, Ann says she had the opportunity to learn a lot and gain back her sense of identity and self empowerment. A native of Richmond, Ann enjoys the company of her guide dog, Kelly. Please join us in welcoming Ann to VRAC!
The Virginia Relay Advisory Council (VRAC) represents the needs and concerns of Virginia Relay users. To learn more, please visit www.varelay.org/advisorycouncil.
The Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (VDDHH), Virginia Relay CapTel, and Heroes with Hearing Loss℠ Program have partnered with the disAbility Resource Center in Fredericksburg, Va. to present “Soldiering on with Confidence & Independence,” a conference targeted specifically to United States military veterans who are hard of hearing and to their families.
The event will take place from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturday, November 9 at the John F. Fick Conference Center (1301 Sam Perry Boulevard) in Fredericksburg. The day will be filled with informational presentations and exhibit booths intended to honor veterans for their service and give them a forum to share information, personal experiences, strategies and more about living with hearing loss.
According to statistics from the Department of Defense, hearing loss is currently the number one service-related injury suffered by U.S. veterans returning home from the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq. Approximately 60 percent of veterans returning from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom have some hearing damage, with 840,000 suffering from tinnitus and just over 700,000 suffering from hearing loss. More than 1.2 million veterans from every generation suffer from some form of hearing loss.
Conference attendees will have the opportunity to attend helpful presentations from leading physicians and audiologists; gather information about the latest hearing loss technologies, including implantable hearing aids and cochlear implants; meet other veterans with hearing loss and share experiences and coping skills; view live hearing dog demonstrations; and view a variety of assistive communication devices on display, courtesy of VDDHH and Hamilton CapTel.
The cost to attend “Soldiering on with Confidence & Independence” is $20 per person and registration will be limited to the first 200 reservations received. Scholarships made possible by the Virginia Wounded Warriors Program are available to veterans who may not be able to afford to attend.
For more information about or to register for “Soldiering on with Confidence & Independence,” please contact Arva Priola at The disAbility Resource Center via phone at 540-373-5890, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, or visit .
Last fall, Virginia Relay and the Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing introduced iCanConnect, a new program established by the Federal Communications Commission to provide a wide range of communications tools – including screen enlargement software, screen readers and Braille displays – at no cost to qualified applicants who have combined hearing and vision loss.
A new website, www.iCanConnectVirginia.org, is now live for anyone who would like more information about this program. The site features eligibility information, a list of the available equipment, frequently asked questions, and contact information for interested applicants.
To qualify for iCanConnect, applicants must be verified as deaf-blind by a practicing vision- or hearing-related professional and be enrolled in a federal low-income program or have an income that does not exceed 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
This month, Virginia Relay will be saying a bittersweet goodbye to AT&T Channel Manager Matt Myrick. After almost nine years with Virginia Relay, Matt has accepted a well-deserved promotion to become an Accessibility Solutions Engineer for AT&T. In his new position, he will be inspecting all of AT&T’s new products and services to help ensure they are compliant with FCC standards before they are released to the public.
Matt will continue to live in the area in his new job, and he is excited for the new perspective and opportunities his new position will offer. But he will miss getting to travel and meet Relay users across Virginia. During his time with Virginia Relay, Matt has seen the program grow stronger, thanks to the dedication of its outreach team.
“The programs we’ve launched over the years would not have been successful without the support of our contract outreach managers,” he said. “Virginia Relay is considered a model for a lot of other states, because it has some of the best staff and CAs in the country.”
Matt says his favorite part of working with Virginia Relay has been the people he’s met along the way.
“I’m so grateful to have worked with great people like Clayton Bowen, Ron Lanier, and everyone at VDDHH,” he said. “Working with them has been a real pleasure and has made me grow in a professional way. I’ve really enjoyed working with them over the years, and I want to say thank you for all of the support they’ve given me over the years, and thank you especially to Clayton Bowen.”
Join us in thanking Matt for the great service he has provided to the Virginia Relay program, and wishing him all the best in his next endeavor. Congratulations, Matt!
Thanks to FREE apps like these, a smartphone can be an incredibly powerful communications tool for deaf and hard-of-hearing users. Download them now from your device’s apps store.
IP-Relay from Purple Communications enables deaf or hard-of-hearing users to make and receive text relay calls. Calls are free and do not count against your monthly phone minutes. For Apple, Android and BlackBerry devices.
Get video relay service on the go with ntouch, the app from Sorenson Communications that turns your smartphone into an instant videophone. For Apple and Android devices.
Hamilton Mobile CapTel
See exactly what is being said to you on every call with Hamilton Mobile CapTel, the app that translates your caller’s words into easy-to-read text captions. Ideal for hard-of-hearing or deaf people who want to make voice calls. For Apple, Android and Blackberry devices.
Enjoy video chat wherever you’re comfortable! ConvoMobile lets you call any videophone and features one-click Video Relay calling. It’s also the first mobile VRS app to have a 911 hot button. For Apple and Android devices.
Virtual Voice uses text to speech (TTS) and speech recognition features to enable deaf and speech-disabled users to communicate with others without the need for sign language or lip reading. For Android devices.
iSpeech converts text to speech and will even translate your text into 18 foreign languages, making it great for travel. Choose from a selection of voices. For Apple and Blackberry devices.
Perfect for ASL users and late-deafened adults, Dragon Dictate changes voice to text captions, making it easy for deaf and hard-of-hearing users to communicate face-to-face with others. For Apple devices.
Video call and instant message anyone on Skype for free. For Apple, Android and BlackBerry devices.
Feel who’s calling and texting you with Vibe, the app that uses vibration patterns to help you ID callers. Pick a contact and set or create a unique vibration pattern for them—it’s that easy! For Android devices.
Deaf Note replaces the need for pen and paper to write notes back and forth. Save or export your notes, change font sizes, and more. For Android devices.
Buzz Cards by Sorenson Communications works like a deck of flash cards to help deaf users communicate more easily with those who don’t know sign language. Make and edit cards as needed, or create cards ahead of time for messages you use more often (e.g., “Where is the restroom?” or “Where is the nearest bus stop?”). Your cards are organized by category (e.g., “Dining” or “Travel”) to make them easy to find later. For Apple devices.
The Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (VDDHH) and Virginia Relay recently announced that military veterans living with a hearing or speech loss are now automatically eligible for 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 the following qualifications:
A veteran with a hearing or speech loss and proof of an Honorable Discharge
“I am pleased to announce today that veterans living in Virginia with a hearing or speech loss are now automatically eligible for telecommunications equipment through Virginia’s Technology Assistance Program. I urge all eligible Virginia veterans to learn more about this new program to help reduce communications barriers,” said Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.
“Our veterans have dedicated their lives to protecting our way of life, and now through our Technology Assistance Program, we are honoring their service by offering veterans with a hearing or speech loss adaptive telecommunications equipment,” said Ron Lanier, director of VDDHH. “Our goal is to make daily life easier for Virginia’s veterans living with a hearing or speech loss by helping them to stay connected with their family, friends, and employers as well as their grateful community.”
Paul Galanti, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Veterans Services, noted, “the US Department of Defense Hearing Center of Excellence estimates 60 percent of veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq have hearing loss as a result of their military service. This new benefit will help provide these men and women with the tools necessary to adapt to this loss.”
TAP provides telecommunications equipment to all qualified applicants whose disabilities prevent them from using a standard telephone. To qualify for the program, individuals must be deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind or speech disabled. Applicants must also be Virginia residents and meet income eligibility requirements that are based on household income and family size. There are no age restrictions; however applications from minors must be co-signed by a parent or legal guardian.
To learn more about VDDHH, Virginia Relay and TAP for veterans, call 1-800-552-7917 v/tty or visit www.vddhh.org.
The newest innovation in CapTel® technology is now available from Virginia Relay: the CapTel 840i. Like its predecessor, the CapTel 800i, CapTel 840i allows individuals to call a CapTel user directly, without having to dial a toll-free access number first, making the entire process more similar to a regular phone call.
The CapTel 840i hooks up to your phone line like any other phone, but it also connects to your high-speed Internet access to automatically display captions of everything your caller says on all incoming and outgoing telephone calls.
Other new features and benefits of the CapTel 840i include:
To use the CapTel 840i, you need telephone service (digital, DSL, VoIP or analog) and high-speed Internet access (WiFi or Ethernet cable).
CapTel 840i phones are available to Virginia residents through Virginia Relay for the exclusive discounted price of just $99. To find out more about CapTel, call 1-800-552-7917 (voice/TTY) or visit www.varelay.org.
Later this year, phones will be available at no cost to qualifying individuals through the VDDHH Technology Assistance Program. To find out if you qualify, contact the VDDHH outreach office nearest you. For a list of office locations visit http://www.vddhh.org/orproviders.aspx or call 1-800-552-7917 (voice/text).
CapTel is a registered trademark of Ultratec, Inc.