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Federal Communications Commission

FCC 13-101



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 03-123
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 technologies.
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

Federal Communications Commission

FCC 13-101

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 communication.
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.

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