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.