Have you ever wondered how Virginians who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf/blind or speech disabled call a friend, family member or local business? Years ago, the answer was that they didn’t. All that has changed, however, thanks to the creation of a public service called Virginia Relay, which allows people who have hearing and/or speech loss to communicate with anyone who uses a telephone.
Here’s how the service works: After contacting Virginia Relay, the hearing or speech-impaired user will give the Virginia Relay Communications Assistant (CA) the phone number of the person or business being called. As the call progresses, the CA will voice the words the text or sign language user provides (Virginia Relay users commonly use text telephones or Video Relay Service to make calls) and type or sign the words of the hearing user, thus relaying the conversation back and forth.
Although Virginia Relay was implemented nearly 15 years ago, Relay users still experience difficulties when calling local businesses, often because the person answering the phone is not familiar with the ease of a Relay call. That’s why The Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization is participating in Relay Partner. The first program of its kind in the nation, Relay Partner is designed to educate businesses and their employees about how to use Virginia Relay to communicate with customers who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf/blind or speech disabled. As a Relay Partner, the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization will be instituting a company-wide, mandatory Virginia Relay training program. Once employees have experienced the steps for a Relay call as part of their training, they will feel confident about conducting business through Virginia Relay.
We also will be using a special Relay Partner logo that will be incorporated into our marketing and advertising materials. This will let Relay users know that our employees have received adequate education and training about making and receiving Virginia Relay calls, and that we welcome them as customers.
For more information about our participation in Virginia Relay Partner, contact Ms. Kendall Miller, Public Involvement and Title VI Principal Administrator at firstname.lastname@example.org or (757) 352-2052. To learn more about Virginia Relay and view a current list of Virginia Relay Partners, visit www.VARelay.org.