In honor of Better Hearing and Speech Month, Virginia Relay was featured in Sunday’s edition of the Suffolk News-Herald. Here’s the article:
By Emily Collins
Picking up the phone and calling a family member seems like an easy task, but it’s quite the opposite for someone who can’t hear the person on the other end of the line.
During Better Hearing and Speech Month in May, the Virginia Department of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing has been spreading the word about services that make the telephone more accessible.
“It’s an opportunity for the public to learn about the communication needs of the deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind and speech disabled,” said Clayton Bowen, the relay and technology programs manager for VDDHH.
There are three state-run services that Virginia provides for the deaf and hard of hearing. “Relay services serves as their access to the telephone network. Otherwise, they would not be able to use the network to call their families or call businesses,” Bowen said.
In 1991, the Virginia Relay became the first state-run service to improve telephone communication for people with hearing and speech problems.
The service provides users with the ability to type and read their phone conversations using a TTY telephone with a keyboard.
By dialing 711, an operator will read the user’s words to a hearing recipient and then type what the person says back.
Bowen said traditional relay has expanded rapidly since its inception, and there are now several relay call centers in the state.
In addition to the traditional services, there are two others available.
CAPTEL, which stands for captioned telephone, became available in 2004 but has gained popularity in recent years.
CAPTEL phones, which have screens, use voice recognition technology to show a transcript of the conversation to the user.
“That is particularly popular with seniors and adults who have lost their hearing, but they can still speak very clearly,” Bowen said. “For a senior, it’s much like the same experience they had with using the phone before they lost their hearing.”
Another service, Video Relay also makes for a more natural conversation, but in this service, the user has a web camera or videophone and signs to an interpreter who relays the message to the other person.
Bowen said deaf people usually like this service because it does not require them to speak.
He added its popularity has increased over the years because the technology has become more widely available.
“It has become more and more popular as Internet is more accessible to the public now,” he said. “The price of video phones and webcams has become more reasonable.”
Video Relay requires an Internet connection and special software that is free of charge when you sign up for the service.
Additionally, traditional relay and CAPTEL required special telephones, but many users can receive the TTY and CAPTEL phones for free or at a discounted rate through the Technology Assistance Program through VDDHH.
Bowen said anyone interested in the services for themselves or for someone else should contact the VDDHH.
For more information, visit www.vddhh.org or call 800-552-7917.
(Courtesy of the Suffolk News-Herald)
For an insightful look into the daily struggles and triumphs of someone dealing with a speech limitation, we suggest reading Robbin Blankenship’s blog, Living with Dysarthria (click link to follow to blog). Robbin has been dealing with dysarthria – a motor speech disorder resulting from neurological injury, since she sustained a traumatic brain injury more than 20 years ago. In her blog, she recounts her daily experiences and shares information for others who may be living with the same challenges.
Robbin currently serves on the Virginia Relay Advisory Council, where she advises on STS (Speech-To-Speech), HCO (Hearing Carry-Over) and other Relay technologies that are designed to assist people with speech difficulties.