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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Don't Hang Up... It's a Relay Call... Wait...

I got a nice letter in the mail the other day. What is difficult is they want me to call to speak with someone on their staff. I wish it were so simple.

I am able to use my own voice when I make phone calls because I became deaf late in life. The phone system I use when I call people is wonderful, however it isn't always easy to connect to someone with it. A Calling Agent types to me what the person on the other end is saying, and I use my own voice to respond. The trouble is, people hang up on us, not understanding it is a relay call from a deaf or hard of hearing person using a different means of communication. Many people expect a response within seconds of answering the phone, and if they don't get one, they hang up. Most often, if they have not been trained about the different kinds of relay calls they may get from deaf and hard of hearing people, they think they are getting a solicitous call and they hang up before the Calling Agent has time to explain.

The biggest obstacle is getting past the automated phone systems. By the time the system races through which number to key in, the Calling Agent is still typing to me, and all the options have been listed, the automated answering system has disconnected us. We need time for the Calling Agent to type all the information to us, time for us to read the information, and time for us to say what number of the option we need.

I make most of my appointments through  email and messaging. I would love to make an appointment and come into the office and speak in person, but when my emails get stuck through the chain of command, I get quite frustrated, especially if it happens over the course of many, many months.

People say, have someone else call. The problem with that, I am left out of the conversation, and many of my questions aren't addressed because the conversation is carried on without me.

I'm looking forward to the day when people manning the telephones allow more time for the callers on the other end to respond, and for businesses to use answering systems that allow pauses between the options so the three of us, the Calling Agent, the business and the deaf or hard of hearing person can connect. Then many of us will be able to connect and make those personal appointments and take care of business in person, face to face.

In the meantime, please, include your personal work email address in your letters so we can connect and make an appointment.


  1. Here. Here! I so prefer emails over calls.

  2. Have you ever thought of using VRS? You can use VCO with them too!

  3. Hi, Meredith! I'm currently looking into Purple Comm. I emailed some questions to them to find out more. We're looking into upgrading my Iphone to the 4 S, but we were told by the company a few months ago there were a few bugs to work out to be compatible with the relay systems. They told my husband that there was a glitch they were working on. We've not heard back or gotten an email as yet.
    Do you use an Iphone or an land line, Meredith? Which phone do you like best and which relay company do you use?

  4. With many computerized menus, you can instruct the relay operator to dial "0" to get to the company operator. Then explain relay calls to the operator and ask her or him to connect you with the proper representative and (have the company operator) explain relay calls again.

    This does not always work. Sometimes, you can also ask the operator for "executive complaints" - this is a vice-president level position that handles complaints as a last resort. Every company has this, even when they tell you they don't.

    Unfortunately, no single approach works with every company.


  5. Thank you, David for this information! Also, often you can by pass some automated systems and get a person just by having the Relay Operator or Calling Agent type in 00. You can explain that is the option you would like. I used to use this when I used the old tdd phone.

  6. In the old days when I used a TTY, before I switched over to VRS, I would let the doctor's office, etc., know that I used a TTY and they would be expecting a Relay operator to speak for me. I would explain to them how it works and all that jazz. (Sometimes I'd leave them an instructional sheet because of the numerous office staff that may need the information.) That was an educational opportunity for them and I nearly never had hang up's with them. Try it. It works.

    Now, with the situation of receiving a letter, instructing you to call them - apparently, they have not met you in person? You might want to write back to them, explaining your "unique" phone communication and letting them know how it works. Then give them a call about a week after you send the letter and hope for the best!

  7. Hi, Anonymous! Thank you for stopping by! This suggestion works well with smaller "businesses" but not with really big businesses. Thank you for explaining this so eloquently well!