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Using the phone with a relay service

I just read a post over at earplugs about dealing with phone calls that have the voice menu systems.  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.  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.  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.  (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 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.  I use this for services that require a phone number. There’s also Web-based Captel (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 you’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 I’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 doesn’t hear the person or doesn’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 you’re also responsible for asking for a repeat if the CA didn’t hear something.

I rarely have problems using relay with customer service reps of big companies. Using it for the doctor’s office locally doesn’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.  I haven’t gotten brave enough to try them yet.  They may be faster, but since I’m much more comfortable in written English I’m perfectly happy with text based relay.



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3 replies on “Using the phone with a relay service”

  1. Share

    I’m always for TRS (text relay service).

    Why? There is several reason it’s important to me when I’m use with AIM on computer. Whatever I’m have conversation with customer service from any companies or have appointment with doctor as you say.

    There is important that I cannot lose the conversation during my prefer that I able to track if I forget something and I look up on history of conversation. It can use it as proof to show them on whom, let saying, they kick my ass. Hey, that’s why there is awesome auto storage the conversation on IM app. (I use Adium under Mac OSX)

    Anyway, that’s my point that I’m not into VRS (video relay service) because it’s annoying that anyone would have to record. Most of time, they would forget what they’re heck about.

    Sam the Bright’s last blog post: Deaf’s Smart Guide: Know your Smartphone

  2. Share

    Oh I hate it when they hang up on me. Not that I take it personally, but it’s aggravating and a waste of time. What I do is tell the relay operator to redial the number and not to hang up the phone, that I’m calling because xxxxx

    Nabeel’s last blog post: The Good, Bad, and Ugly – First Month

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    This post is a great summary of devices available for those of us who loathe the telephone!

    I use a CapTel at work (they’re too $$$ for both work and home, so I use it where I’ll be on the phone more), and the phone has a neat feature where I can turn the captioning on an off at any point in the phone call. The annoying thing is it takes about 5-10 seconds for the captioning to click on, so you have to smile and nod a bit, but after that. it’s captioned.

    IP relay is blocked for me at work, but I really need to use it at home and give my poor hearing hubby a break! How does it work for you?

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