Facts About 711 or Telecommunications Relay Services

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted the use of the 711 dialing code for access to Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS). 7-1-1 is the national number used for accessing relay services. Using 7-1-1 makes the procedure of placing relay calls more proficient, plus it’s easy to memorize all you have to do is dial a three-digit number!

In Canada and the United States, the 711 telephone number is used for the Telecommunications Relay Service to translate from TDD for the deaf to speak, and vice versa. The relay service allows deaf people to communicate with hearing over the phone through an operator. 711 is one of eight N11 codes for abbreviated dialing in the North American Numbering Plan. In the U.S., every phone company is supposed to connect persons who call 711 to a TRS call center from a functional number. In July 2007, the Federal Communications Commission ruled that the 711 necessity extended to VOIP telephony. A telecommunications relay service also called as TRS, relay service, or IP-relay, or Web-based relay service is an operator service that allows people who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, or have a speech disorder to place calls to standard telephone users using a keyboard or assistive tool. In the beginning, relay services were intended to be connected through a TDD, teletypewriter (TTY) or other assistive telephone devices. Services slowly have extended to include almost any real-time text capable technology such as a personal computer, laptop, mobile phone, PDA, and many other devices. The first TTY was invented by deaf scientist Robert Weitbrecht in 1964. The first relay service was established in 1974 by Converse Communications of Connecticut. A telecommunications relay service (TRS) provides a communications assistant (CA) that allows people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired to communicate with people who use a standard telephone. To make using TRS feasible, you can simply dial 711 to be automatically connected to a TRS operator. It’s quick, functional and free.

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that people with disabilities who use TTYs or other devices have direct, equal access to emergency response services. TRS is accessible 24 hours a day 7 days a week, free of charge, and the conversations relayed are kept completely confidential. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 mandated a nationwide system of telecommunications relay services to make the telephone network accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing or who have speech impairments. Relay services enable deaf as well as hard of hearing people communicate in a way that is as close to “functionally equivalent” to the communications enjoyed by telephone users. Initially available for users of teletypewriters (TTYs), latest technologies give consumers choices: voice carry-over; hearing carry-over; captioned telephone service; and Internet-based communication through text relay services (Internet Protocol or IP Relay), video relay services (VRS), and captioned telephone services. The NAD works diligently for better access to the telephone network through innovation in relay services, technologies, and equipment, and the through the development of strong public policies.

There are numerous forms of TRS, depending on the particular desires of the user and the equipment available.

 Text-to-Voice TTY-based TRS is a “traditional” TRS service using a TTY to call the CA at the relay center. TTYs have a keyboard and it allows people to write their conversations. The text is read on a display screen or a paper printout.

Voice Carry Over enables a person with a hearing disability, but who desires to use his or her own voice, to speak directly to the called party and receive responses in text from the CA.

Speech-to-Speech Relay Service is used by an individual with a speech disability.

Shared Non-English Language Relay Services – The FCC also allows TRS providers who voluntarily propose other common non-English language interstates TRS, such as French-to-French, to be compensated from the federal TRS fund.

Captioned Telephone Service is used by persons with a hearing problem but some residual hearing. It uses a unique telephone that has a text screen to display captions of what the other party to the conversation is saying.

IP Captioned Telephone Service includes elements of captioned telephone service and IP Relay. IP captioned telephone service can be provided in a many different ways but uses the Internet – rather than the telephone network – to provide the connection and captions between the caller with a hearing problem and the CA. It also allows the user to simultaneously both listen to and read the text of, what the other party in a telephone conversation is speaking.

Internet Protocol Relay Service is a text-based type of TRS that uses the Internet, in place of traditional telephone lines, for the leg of the call between the person with a hearing or speech disability and the CA. Or else, the call is usually handled just like a TTY-based TRS call.

Video Relay Service (VRS) – This Internet-based type of TRS allows persons whose main language is American Sign Language to communicate with the CA in ASL via video conferencing equipment.

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