Skip Navigation

Federal Communications Commission

English Display Options

Commission Document Attachment




Speech-to-Speech (STS) and Internet Protocol (IP) Speech-to-Speech
Telecommunications Relay Services; Telecommunications Relay Services and Speech-to-Speech
Services for Individuals with Hearing and Speech Disabilities,
CG Docket Nos. 08-15 and 03-
Today we mark the eve of the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act in three
distinct ways. First, as you have just heard, we are improving the service that allows people with
speech disabilities to communicate through telephone networks. This is another step toward
fulfilling the promise of Title IV of the ADA, which requires access by people with hearing or
speech disabilities to our telephone system through telecommunications relay services. Second,
our Consumer Bureau will release a Public Notice seeking comment on a request to update our
hearing aid compatibility standards, which will allow people with hearing loss to have better
volume control on wireline phones. Finally, later this morning, we will hear from our staff about
the Commission's implementation of another landmark law, the Twenty-First Century
Communications and Video Accessibility Act. The CVAA is already ensuring that all
Americans with disabilities are able to use a host of the latest communications and video
programming technologies currently available to the general public.
The Speech-to-Speech, or "STS" item before us highlights a unique service that allows
those with speech disabilities to connect to others using the phone network and specially trained
communications assistants. The Commission first mandated STS in 2000 as a means of fulfilling
our charge under the ADA, to ensure that the nation's relay services make use of modern
In the years that followed, the Commission has received requests and proposals for
improving this critical service, and today, we answer these requests by improving service
standards for those using phone services.
By requiring communication assistants to stay with each STS call for a minimum of 20
minutes, we lessen the disruption that sometimes results when assistants are timed out from a call
before it is concluded. It generally takes a few minutes for a communications assistant to gain a
full understanding of the speech patterns of a person with a speech disability, especially if names
and technical terms are used during a conversation. Reducing the number of times that these
assistants must change during a call will result in greater functional equivalency for the user and
will allow these calls to be processed more efficiently. Similarly, our requirement for STS
providers to offer users the option of having their voices muted during a call will minimize
disruption to the conversational flow of the call. Finally, by ensuring that consumers who access
STS by dialing 711 are able to promptly reach a communication assistant, we will make it easier
for them to use these services.
We also seek comment on other ways we can improve STS. We particularly remain
concerned that despite considerable outreach funding that has been provided over the past

several years, there are many potential STS users who could benefit from, but remain unaware
of, this service. The proposal to centralize STS outreach efforts through a single, national
outreach coordinator is another step in improving the Commission's stewardship of the TRS
Fund. Our goal is to efficiently reach and educate a greater portion of the population of
Americans who could benefit from this service. We also ask how best to register, certify and
verify STS users, which builds on our recent actions on video relay services to curb waste, fraud,
and abuse. There should be no doubt about our unwavering commitment to a sustainable Fund
supporting these services.
Finally, we are aware that a new form of STS, which uses video technology over
broadband to allow the communication assistant to see the STS user as he or she is speaking, is
now being provided by certain state TRS programs. We understand from some of the petitioners
in this proceeding, that having the ability to see the STS caller's facial expressions, gestures, and
lip movements as well as cue cards that the caller could hold up to show names and other
difficult-to-pronounce words can help the communications assistant to better understand, and
re-voice, for the STS user. We will be opening a second STS proceeding in the coming months,
to seek comment on this new form of STS, as well as other ways that Internet-based technologies
can help improve this service.
I am so pleased to announce these new rules, which bring us closer to functional
equivalence for Americans with speech disabilities. STS relay provides an invaluable service to
these often overlooked members of our community, and enables them to participate more fully in
American life. I wish to acknowledge the extraordinary work of Dr. Bob Segalman, founder of
STS, whose ingenuity has enabled people with speech disabilities across the country to enjoy
independence and privacy when using the telephone. Unfortunately, Bob could not be here with
us today as he is based in California, but we hope that he is watching our live web feed. We
know that he is with us in spirit. Additionally, I want to express appreciation to Rebecca Ladew,
a local Speech-to-Speech advocate, who has served on some of our advisory committees. Bob
and Rebecca, your commitment to these issues is unparalleled, and we thank you for the work
that you have done to make it possible for people with speech disabilities to have seamless
Of course, today and next week's ADA celebration are milestones, but by no means the
end of the road. So much more remains to be done to ensure that people with disabilities are full
participants in this communications revolution. I thank my fellow Commissioners for joining me
as we move further toward this most important goal.
I want to thank the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau for its outstanding work
to ensure that individuals with speech disabilities have full access to our communications system,
and for all your efforts to fulfill our obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Note: We are currently transitioning our documents into web compatible formats for easier reading. We have done our best to supply this content to you in a presentable form, but there may be some formatting issues while we improve the technology. The original version of the document is available as a PDF, , or as plain text.


You are leaving the FCC website

You are about to leave the FCC website and visit a third-party, non-governmental website that the FCC does not maintain or control. The FCC does not endorse any product or service, and is not responsible for, nor can it guarantee the validity or timeliness of the content on the page you are about to visit. Additionally, the privacy policies of this third-party page may differ from those of the FCC.