Verizon Hawaii Boosts Operator-Assisted Services for Customers with Disabilities

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HONOLULU - A new Verizon service, available in English and Spanish, enables customers who have speech or hearing impairments to make and receive telephone calls with the assistance of specially trained operators. The bilingual service is now available free of charge 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to Verizon Hawaii customers.

The new Speech-to-Speech (STS) Relay Service is an enhancement of the company's Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS). TRS requires the use of a text telephone called a TTY. STS requires no special equipment.

The developer of STS, Bob Segalman, Ph.D., will showcase the service at a press conference on Tuesday, June 12, 2 p.m., at Verizon Hawaii's Technology Solutions Center (1177 Bishop Street, lobby level).

STS allows customers with speech disabilities to place telephone calls in English or Spanish with the help of specially trained operators. The operators can relay, interpret and amplify the caller's words to the called party. The called party can then respond directly to the caller. All calls are confidential.

"I'm delighted STS is now available in Hawaii," said Segalman. "Because many people with speech impairments have never used a telephone, it's important that they learn about the benefits and ease of using this new service designed for them."

STS can be especially valuable to individuals with cerebral palsy, Parkinson's disease, laryngectomies, Alzheimer's disease, stuttering, muscular dystrophy, stroke, and other conditions affecting volume or clarity of speech.

According to the Assistive Technology Resource Centers of Hawaii, over 11,000 Hawaii residents have speech disabilities. About 3,000 also have associated mobility limitations that prevent them from using text telephones, which Verizon's Telecommunications Relay Service uses.

"We are deeply committed to serving the needs of our customers who have special needs, and are delighted to offer this valuable new service," said Jill Hayami, director of Verizon's Operator Services.

In addition to the new STS service, Verizon's TRS now has Spanish-speaking assistants to assist Spanish-speaking customers with speech or hearing disabilities, or those seeking to communicate with them on interstate calls. Operators can receive messages in Spanish by voice or text, convey the message to the called party in Spanish, and if necessary, respond to the caller.

Verizon Hawaii also publishes a local TRS user guide with useful numbers for customers who are deaf, hard of hearing and speech-disabled. The guide lists agencies and organizations that provide services for people with speech or hearing disabilities. TRS user guides are available in local Verizon PhoneMarts or by calling 711, a new, national three-digit number.

For more information, call Verizon Hawaii's TRS at 711; for STS, call 643-0787, or visit Verizon's Web site at:

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