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Relay Services Provide 711 Access Nationwide

The familiar calling shortcuts of 911 and 411 have been joined by 711the new three-digit number to reach all Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) nationwide.

TRS facilitates telephone conversations between people who have hearing or speech disabilities and those who do not. In one type of TRS, a text telephone (TTY) user calls a voice telephone user through a TRS provider (or relay center) where a communications assistant places the call to the voice user, and then relays the conversation by transcribing spoken content for the TTY user and reading text aloud for the voice user. Individuals can use 711 whether they use standard telephones or TTYs, regardless of which relay services are used, including two-line voice carry-over, hearing carry-over, speech-to-speech, or Spanish relay.

711 is good news for everyonenot just persons with hearing and speech disabilities. Both voice and TRS users will be able to initiate a call from any telephone, anywhere in the United States, without having to remember and dial a seven- or 10-digit access number. There are currently more than 100 separate numbers nationwide for accessing relay services.

''Consumers will no longer need to remember dozens of different TRS numbers as they travel from state to state in our mobile society,'' said FCC Commissioner Michael Copps in a press release, ''and TRS users will be able to put one number on their business cards and other forms, making it easier for people to contact them.''

Under the new rules adopted by the FCC last year, as of Oct. 1, all telecommunications carriers in the United States are required to provide 711 TRS dialing, including wireline, wireless, and payphone providers. The FCC rule also encourages all private business exchange (PBX) suppliers to configure their systems for 711 access to TRS. If callers find that they are unable to get 711 TRS access, they should contact the FCC's Consumer Center at 888-CALL-FCC (voice) or 888-TELL-FCC (TTY), or by email at access@fcc.gov.

Creating Awareness of Relay Services
To increase awareness of 711, state relay services across the nationincluding Maryland Relayhave developed outreach materials.

Maryland Relay has developed a ''Kids Keeping in Touch through Maryland Relay,'' a program for grades 3 through 5 promoting hearing loss awareness and Maryland Relay. The program is designed to increase awareness and sensitivity to communication differences that exist between hearing people and people who are deaf, hard of hearing, DeafBlind, or speech disabled. The program also seeks to help students feel comfortable about making and receiving a relay call.

For a free copy of this kit, or other materials such as posters, tips on using the relay, or brochures that can be displayed in schools, offices and waiting rooms, call Nancy Seidman, director of public relations for Maryland Relay, at 800-552-7724.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was published originally in the ASHA LEADER, Page 16, October 23, 2001. We are grateful to ASHA and The Leader for granting us permission to republish this story.

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