An everyday activity like making a phone call can become a frustrating ordeal if someone at the other end can’t understand you. A brain injury can result in speech problems that interfere with communication. Your voice may not be loud enough, words may slur together, or sounds may not be distinct.
When you’re talking on the phone with strangers, they don’t know why you don’t sound “normal.” The listener misses a lot of signals about who you are and what you are trying to say. In contrast, when you talk to someone face-to-face, you provide additional communication through facial expression and body language. Worse, because they are unable to see you, they may hang up, thinking that you are pulling a prank or that they have a bad connection.
But help is available. Speech-to-Speech (STS) relay is a service that offers free assistance. By dialing 711, individuals with speech impairments can reach a trained Communication Assistant (CA) who will place a phone call and repeat what the caller says. The CA’s role is solely to re-voice each word spoken by the individual with a speech impairment. The service can also be used to place a call to someone with a speech problem.
Since 2001, Speech-to-Speech relay has been a feature of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) and funded by state or federal government. The FCC requires the service to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week across the United States and its territories. CAs must stay on the call at least 15 minutes, and they must protect the confidentiality of the caller. Users of the service may request CAs to retain a list of frequently called contacts or to retain information in order to place future calls. Check out the FCC’s Consumer Facts on STS.
Dr. Robert Segalman experienced the frustrations of not being understood due to his lifelong speech problems from cerebral palsy. He founded the STS relay and tirelessly advocated for the service to be included in federal regulations so it would be available to all. Segalman’s website includes a training video demonstrating how the service works.
Using the telephone should be a convenience, not an obstacle. Dial 711 and try Speech-to-Speech relay, then share your success with others!