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Telecommunications Relay Service: Everything You Need to Know

Have you ever wondered how people who are deaf or hard of hearing use the telephone? The answer is it is through a helpful innovation called the Telecommunications Relay Service.

Telecommunications Relay Service or TRS allows individuals who have difficulty with hearing or with any other disability to place and make calls. It is done through a call to communication assistants, who then help facilitate the calls.

TRS is mandated under Title IV of the American Disabilities Act in all states, along with Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and all of the U.S. territories. This is a free relay service that aims to bridge the communication gap.

How does the Telecommunications Relay Service work?

People with hearing and/or speech disabilities no longer have to feel left out, as the TRS empowers them to use standard telephones for calls.

The TRS typically works through a communications assistant. For example, a person with disabilities will dial 711, which will connect them with the communications assistant. The caller will then use a text input device that will give the assistant the number they want to call.

Essentially, the call will be mediated by the communications assistant. First, they relay the text of the caller to the receiver of the call. After which, the assistant will convert what the other party said into text for the caller.

All of the conversations will remain confidential. Communications assistants are not allowed to disclose the contents of a conversation, according to law.

What are the types of relay services?

There are various types of relay services to fit all types of needs. Here are the following types of telecommunication relay services:


This is the most common type of telecommunications relay service.

A person with disabilities places a call to a communication assistant using a teletypewriter, and the latter acts as the mediator for the conversation. The CA verbalizes what the caller says, and the C.A. likewise converts the other party’s speech into text.

Internet Protocol / IP Relay

As seen in the name, this one is internet-based rather than relying on a Text-to-Voice teletypewriter to place the call. While a communications assistant still mediates it, the call may be placed online or on any other electronic device.

Voice Carry Over

The Voice Carry Over is for individuals with hearing problems but can use their voice. They use their voice to communicate, but the other party’s response is through text converted by the communications assistant.

Video Relay Services

Video Relay Services or VRS also relies on the internet and enables people to use sign language to communicate for calls. They sign their message to a communications assistant, and the latter signs back the response from the other party.


This type of TRS is primarily for individuals with speech impediments that may hinder them from making calls. For this kind, it requires a specially trained communications assistant to facilitate the conversation. They repeat what the caller intends to say so that the other party may understand it well. The Speech-to-Speech TRS required no special equipment.

Captioned Telephone Services

Captioned telephone services are for individuals who have no trouble with speaking but have limited or impaired hearing ability.

It works through a screen that displays text or captions of what the other party is saying. This feature allows individuals to still speak while aiding them through captions that capture what the other person is saying. Like the other types of TRS, this one also functions through the aid of a communications assistant.

I.P. Captioned Telephone Service

The main difference between this TRS and the one above is that this type relies on the internet. Although it depends on modern technology, this does not require any special equipment to work. Any device that can connect to the internet will work well with this TRS.

This works for individuals by providing captions of the conversation while allowing the parties to listen as well. In addition, the I.P. Captioned Telephone Service is able to cater to more types of limitations that people may have due to its versatility.

These are only some of the different types of Telecommunication Relay Services that are widely known. Now that we’ve listed the types of TRS, you may be wondering how they actually work. If you’ve never seen one being used in real life, then read on.

How do I call a relay service?

Relay service is simple and straightforward. The only number one will need to dial is 711.

Upon dialing the number, you will immediately be connected with a communications assistant who will place the call for you. They will then ask you if you have ever used the service before, and they will guide you if you’re unfamiliar with the process.

If you are receiving the end of the call, do not hang up and mistake it as a telemarketing call. You will hear the assistant introduce that it is a relay call once you answer.

Interesting Facts About Telecommunication Relay Service

  • The first-ever relay device was invented by a deaf scientist named Robert H Weitbrecht in the 1960s. He created the first teletypewriter telephone that allowed typed messages to be sent between phones.
  • The American Disabilities Act officially took effect on July 26, 1993. It requires telephone companies all over the U.S. to provide telecommunications relay services.
  • Communication assistants are professionally trained to be unobtrusive during calls. They are prohibited from revealing the contents of the conversations.

The types of Telecommunications Relay Services continue to improve as technology provides a better and more accessible world for the disabled. With these innovations, more possibilities and opportunities are becoming available for the deaf, mute, and hard-of-hearing.

We have come a long way from the humble beginnings of the teletypewriter telephone. It is definitely exciting to see what the next innovations will feature and how they can further help those with hearing or speaking impairments.

We are ready to provide you with qualified and certified interpreters on-demand.

Here are eTranslation Services, we can help you comply with the government’s language access program for LEPs and people who have a hearing impairment. We have qualified and certified medical interpreters to meet your facility’s requirements. Email us at [email protected] or call us at (800) 882-6058 so that we can discuss your needs further.




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