7-1-1 Dialing to Telecommunications Relay Service Introduced in Washington

7-1-1 Dialing to Telecommunications Relay Service Introduced in Washington

District Relay Makes It Easier to Communicate With Those Who Have Hearing, Speech Disabilities

June 12, 2000


Sandra Arnette,

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Washingtonians can now dial 7-1-1 to communicate with deaf, hard-of-hearing or speech-disabled people who use text telephones, also known as TTY devices.

Through the combined efforts of Bell Atlantic and AT&T, the District joins nine states in offering 7-1-1 dialing for telecommunications relay services (TRS).

"Implementation of 7-1-1 dialing represents another example of Bell Atlantic's continued commitment to deploy user-friendly, technologically advanced services to all customers," said Marie C. Johns, president and CEO of Bell Atlantic - Washington, D.C. "Bell Atlantic has worked closely with AT&T - the District's provider of relay service - to make the day possible when users can more simply use D.C. Relay."

By the end of June, Bell Atlantic expects to deploy the 7-1-1 service in more than 75 percent of the states in its mid-Atlantic and Northeast service area.

With 7-1-1 service, D.C. customers dial only three digits, instead of the current seven-digit number, to send text messages over regular phone lines using D.C. Relay, the telecommunications relay service. This allows quicker communication between people who are deaf, hard-of-hearing or have a speech disability - who use TTYs - and people who use standard telephones. Like TTY users, standard phone users rely heavily on TRS to call friends, relatives, business associates and others who communicate with a TTY.

After dialing 7-1-1, voice users will hear a recorded message requesting them to "dial 1" to place a relay call. TTY users will be connected to a relay operator automatically.

The TTY user will type his or her conversation. A person who is deaf-blind may use either a TTY or telebraille. The message is relayed to a skilled communications assistant (CA) at D.C. Relay who reads it to the hearing person. The CA then relays the hearing person's spoken words by typing them back to the TTY user verbatim. CAs are trained to help conversations flow accurately and easily, and all calls are handled confidentially.

Bell Atlantic is providing this new, three-digit dialing service at no additional cost to Washington, D.C., customers. There is no limit on the number of times someone can use the relay service, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There also is no charge to access D.C. Relay, and the service even can be dialed from payphones.

"AT&T is proud to have been the first telecommunications company to offer around-the-clock relay service 15 years ago, a service designed to keep the lines of communication open between the hearing community and anyone with a hearing or speech loss," said Angela Lee, AT&T state director of government affairs.

AT&T has been Washington's relay provider since 1992 and has seen D.C. Relay grow steadily since that time. AT&T now handles an average of 37,000 calls a month, and expects the introduction of 7-1-1 to result in a further increase in call volumes. Beyond the District, AT&T provides relay service to 12 states, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, and has modified equipment and all of its relay centers to better handle 7-1-1 calls and serve customers.

To avoid customer confusion, the current D.C. Relay numbers, 202-855-1234 for TTY calls and 202-855-1000 for voice calls, will continue to be available for calls placed to D.C. Relay.

Bell Atlantic is at the forefront of the new communications and information industry. With more than 44 million telephone access lines and more than 20 million wireless customers worldwide, Bell Atlantic companies are premier providers of advanced wireline voice and data services, market leaders in wireless services and the world's largest publishers of directory information. Bell Atlantic companies are also among the world's largest investors in high-growth global communications markets, with operations and investments in 23 countries.