April 29, 2003 --
People with speech disabilities in the U.S. have access to a free telephone relay service 24 hours a day -- speech to speech, or STS, provides communication assistants for people with difficulty being understood by the public on the telephone. But outreach is needed, says STS developer Bob Segalman, as few people know about the service.
STS is provided through the TTY relay in each state (a form of relay service and, like relay services, is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission). Unlike the TTY relay, which requires the user to type on a TTY machine (many people with speech disabilities also have difficulty typing), STS enables people to communicate by voice through a "communications assistant" provided through the service People with speech disabilities dial toll-free to reach a "communication assistant." These CAs have been trained to be familiar with various speech patterns such as those used by people with cerebral palsy. The assistant places the telephone calls for the disabled person, and repeats their words exactly in a 3-way calling environment. For a list of STS numbers by state, go to http://www.stsnews.com/RelayNews/STSDialUpTelnumbers.html or dial 711 and ask for Speech to Speech.
To try out STS, report problems or get more information, visit the STS website at http://www.stsnews.com/ or contact Katherine Keller at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up for the STS List Serve.
Across the U.S., STS users -- people with Parkinson's disease, cerebral palsy, ALS, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, stutters or laryngectomies -- make about 6,000 calls each month. People who use augmentive communication devices can use STS to get their phone calls made as well. STS is also available during limited hours in Sweden (contact Birgit G Lindh at email@example.com) and Australia (contact Bobby Blackson at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Bob Segalman, Ph.D., who has cerebral palsy, developed the concept of STS. Read an interview with Segalman at http://www.enabledonline.com/BackIssues/September2000/access3.html
Segalman is gathering support letters to insure that every state implements an STS Outreach Service to tell people with speech disabilities about STS. If you're willing to sign a support letter for this, please e-mail Segalman at: email@example.com -- indicate which state you live in and request a draft letter. If a communications assistant is unable to assist you with a particular STS call, Segalman also wants to know about that. Contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org stating your name, date and time of call, location, and telephone number.