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The FCC has unveiled a new type of support service specifically designed for consumers who are deaf and hard of hearing to communicate in their primary language, American Sign Language (ASL).   The “ASL Consumer Support Line,” announced by Chairman Tom Wheeler at the M-Enabling Summit last night, allows deaf and hard of hearing consumers to engage in a direct, interactive video call with a consumer specialist at the FCC who can provide assistance in ASL for filing informal complaints or obtaining consumer information.  

The direct ASL video concept was first conceived by FCC staff members in the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau’s Disability Rights Office who have observed that direct access to communication, rather than through intermediaries such as interpreters or video relay service (VRS), provide greater autonomy to the consumers.   This direct video access will allow consumers who are deaf and hard of hearing to communicate in their native language, ASL, with ease and confidence that their messages are being delivered in an exact manner.  

Now, direct video access to the FCC has finally become a reality for deaf and hard of hearing consumers who communicate primarily in ASL. 

We believe the new service will be highly preferred to VRS and to filing written complaints through the FCC’s website because of the difficulty in trying to convey the complexity of complaints for disability-related issues.

Persons who are deaf or hard of hearing can use the ASL Consumer Support Line by calling 844-4-FCC-ASL (844-432-2275) or 202-810-0444. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (Eastern Time), Monday through Friday.

You can watch an ASL web video about the ASL Consumer Support Line at https://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/disability-rights-office.

With the launch of the ASL Consumer Support Line, the FCC is paving the way for direct and easy access to connect with the FCC for consumers who communicate in ASL.  

About Video Relay Service (VRS): VRS allows persons who are deaf, deaf-blind, hard of hearing and have speech disabilities to use ASL to communicate in near real time through a communications assistant , via video over a broadband Internet connection.  The CA, serving as a communication conduit, relays message from ASL to spoken English and vice versa for a call between a video caller who communicates in ASL and a voice telephone user.

About the Disability Rights Office (DRO):  DRO addresses disability-related telecommunications matters, including but not limited to:  Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS); access to telecommunications and advanced communications equipment and services by persons with disabilities; access to emergency information; and closed captioning.  For more information about DRO, visit: https://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/disability-rights-office