COMMISSIONER JESSICA ROSENWORCEL
Speech-to-Speech 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, 03-123,
Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Hearing (July 19, 2013)
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, functional equivalency has been the
foundation of our telecommunications relay service policies. Functional equivalency may sound
like the kind of regulatory lingo that only a lawyer could love. But for millions of Americans
with hearing and speech impairments, it means that they have the right and ability to pick up the
phone, reach out and connect, and participate more fully in the world.
Today, more than one million Americans, including an increasing number of veterans
suffering from brain injuries, live with speech disabilities. These disabilities can make it difficult
to communicate and hard to make even a simple phone call. But the Commission's speech-to-
speech telecommunications relay service is designed to help. Our rules permit people with
speech disabilities to speak with a trained communications assistant who then relays the words of
the speech-to-speech user to the called party. It means that people with speech disabilities can
do the things so many of us take for granted--pick up the phone and seek emergency help;
secure a job; make a doctor's appointment; follow up with a child's teacher; and connect with
family and friends.
But as good as this program is, there is room for improvement. So today we take steps to
improve speech-to-speech services. Specifically, to limit disruption for users, we require
communications assistants to stay on the line for at least 20 minutes before switching the caller
to a new assistant. At the same time, we permit a speech-to-speech communications assistant to
transfer a call to another assistant if he or she is unable to understand the speech-to-speech user.
Speech-to-speech users also may now mute their voices on a call to reduce listener confusion. In
addition, we seek comment on ways to increase awareness of the speech-to-speech program so it
can help more people with speech disabilities communicate effectively. The net result should be
more dignity for users, more clarity for communications assistants, and more effective calls.
Thank you to the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau for your work today and
for your continued commitment to functional equivalency.