I just read a post over at earplugs about dealing with phone calls that have the voice menu systems.Â A nuissance for deaf and hearing alike.
In the past years I’ve gotten very comfortable making these kinds of calls though. I am much more comfortable with calls to someone who gets paid to answer the phone and deal with my requests than I am with calling a friend or colleague.Â I would only subject them to a relay service call if it was an emergency and I had no other way to reach them.
For calls to customer service centers though I always use a telecommunications relay service. This is a free service for those with hearing or speech issues that is paid for out of taxes on every phone bill.Â Once upon a time I had a real TTY for such calls but for the past 8+ years the websites and IM relays have been working great.Â (The internet relays have led to issues/controversy due to foreign scammers using them, but that’s a topic for another post.)
Normally I use http://ip-relay.com/ but there are many others. I can also send an IM to ATTRelay on AIM and that will connect me to make a call. I even have an incoming phone number that will contact me by IM via the relay or email me with a message if one is left.Â I use this for services that require a phone number. Thereâ€™s also Web-based Captel http://www.sprintcaptel.com (Why don’t they have an incoming 10 digit number for captel??)
Captel is neat, they call you back and set up a 3-way call where you can talk and hear the person youâ€™re calling and the operator can hear too and types captions that appear in your web browser. However, I prefer straight relay for customer service calls. I type the number, the caller assistant (CA, operator) calls it and types what the person Iâ€™m calling says, I type back and the CA reads it to them. Slow obviously, but accurate with minimal work on my part.
I prefer this for calling customer service centers because if the caller assistant doesnâ€™t hear the person or doesnâ€™t hear the recording they make it their job to figure out what was said before they share that information with you by typing it. With CapTel you get faster captions and you can hear and respond by voice, but youâ€™re also responsible for asking for a repeat if the CA didnâ€™t hear something.
I rarely have problems using relay with customer service reps of big companies. Using it for the doctorâ€™s office locally doesnâ€™t go so well, using it to make a hair appointment always results in them hanging up on me. CapTel would be better for those, but I usually ask my boyfriend to call. He also orders my lunch for me most days.
As an additional note, there are also Video relay services for people who are comfortable with sign language.Â I haven’t gotten brave enough to try them yet.Â They may be faster, but since I’m much more comfortable in written English I’m perfectly happy with text based relay.