Anniversary marks two and a half decades of commitment to accessibility

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (BUSINESS WIRE), September 16, 2014 - For thousands of deaf and hard of hearing individuals living in the state of New York, a specialized call center located in Syracuse represents the epicenter of their ability to communicate via telephone with others around the world. Yesterday the center celebrated the 25th anniversary of New York Relay services and in part to recognize National Deaf Awareness Week.

“We are honored to celebrate the 25th anniversary of New York Relay Service,” said Robert Puckett, president of the New York State Telecommunications Association. “The center aims to empower people with disabilities through accessible technology like our innovative relay services and demonstrates how critical these services are to individuals in our state.”

New York Relay services, provided under contract with Sprint, have enriched the lives of thousands of New Yorkers by using specially trained relay operators, known as communications assistants, to facilitate telephone calls for deaf consumers or those experiencing hearing loss.

Communications assistants read the typed conversations received from a deaf caller via a text telephone to the other caller and then types what they hear from a standard telephone user so that the conversation can be read by the deaf or hearing loss individual.

The center has handled several million calls during the past 25 years, which began Jan. 1, 1989, as New York was the second state to establish such a system (behind California), and predates the establishment of national relay service ordered by the Federal Communications Commission and the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The center also provides speech-to-speech services to facilitate calls between those who have difficulty speaking. For those with hearing loss, Captioned Telephone Service is available and is designed for those who can speak but need to read over a text telephone what the other caller is saying. The service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and there are no limits to the number of call a person can place or the length of calls. Callers pay no more than standard telephone rates for calls. Since 1997, the service has been provided from the New York Relay Center in Syracuse through Sprint, with funding provided by the regulated telecommunications providers across New York.

Last month, the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD) honored New York Relay Service with the Title IV Public Service Award at the annual celebration of the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, hosted by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“The New York Relay Service received the award for its commitment to providing accessible telecommunications for people with disabilities,” said Victor Calise, Commissioner of the NYC MOPD. “The service has improved the quality of life for many people in the disability community.”

In addition to the Public Service Award, New York Relay has received a variety of accolades, including the Media Access Disability Award from the California Governor's Committee for Employment of Disabled Persons in 1999, the Communicator Crystal Award for the “Connect to Your Future” videotape in 2001, and the ADA Sapolin award in 2014. For its Captioned Telephone public service announcement, New York Relay received the ONYX (Observing New York's eXcellence in Marketing) award by the New York State Telecommunications Association in 2009. For more information about New York Relay, visit www.nyrelay.com.

About Sprint Relay

Sprint is the largest and most technologically advanced TRS provider in the nation with more than 20 years of experience providing relay services to persons who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, or have a speech disability to communicate with hearing persons on the phone. Sprint’s experience in this field ensures Sprint Relay users receive quality service regardless of the type of relay service they are using. Sprint’s relay service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with no restrictions on the number of calls placed or the length of calls. For more information, visit www.sprintrelay.com.



Marci VerBrugge-Rhind, 913-794-6319
Christine McCarthy, 617-939-8363


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