August 22, 2006
Sprint and Relay Texas Build on 16-Year Relationship to Provide Communications Services to Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals
Stephanie Taliaferro, Sprint, 913-794-3658
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — 08/22/2006
Building on a successful, long-term relationship, Sprint (NYSE: S) will continue to provide assistive communications services to individuals within Texas who are deaf or hard of hearing or have a speech disability. Through a competitive bid process, the Public Utility Commission of Texas awarded Sprint with its fourth consecutive five-year contract. As a result of the long-standing history, many of the telecommunications relay services (TRS) standards used within the TRS industry today are largely due to the vision from the deaf and hard of hearing community in Texas, as it was the first state to offer Sprint Relay services. Sprint delivers approximately 700,000 minutes of assistive communications services each month in Texas.
Through the new contract, effective Sept. 1, 2006, Relay Texas will continue to provide TRS including Spanish-to-English translations, Captioned Telephone (CapTel), video relay service (VRS), Sprint IP and IP Wireless.
Sprint also operates two relay service centers in Texas, located in Austin and Lubbock, and together they employ more than 300 Texans.
"It's almost impossible to envision our community without Sprint Relay Services," said Claire Bugen, superintendent of Texas School for the Deaf. "Sprint Relay of Austin is so much more than a quality provider of telecommunications relay services to the state of Texas; they are a valued community partner and strong advocates of improved services for deaf and hard of hearing Texans."
For the past 10 years, Sprint has worked with the Texas School for the Deaf to sponsor a Walk event to raise funds for service organizations that assist the deaf and hard of hearing community. The walk has become one of the leading events to benefit the community and has raised a total of more than $150,000 since 1996.
"The State of Texas was Sprint's first relay contract, and this contract award will represent 21 years of service, the longest continuous relationship between a TRS provider and a state in the United States," said Mike Ligas, director of Sprint Relay. "Sprint Relay is honored to continue to be entrusted as the provider of Relay Texas to assist those who are deaf and hard of hearing to communicate effectively with family and friends and for business purposes."
Sprint Relay Portfolio of Services
Sprint has nearly 16 years of experience in providing relay services to persons who are deaf, hard of hearing or deaf-blind or have a speech disability to communicate with hearing persons on the phone. Sprint's experience in the field assures users of Sprint Relay receive quality service no matter what type of Relay service they are using. Relay service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with no restrictions on the number of calls placed or call length. For more information, visit www.sprintrelay.com.
Sprint's TRS is accessible throughout Texas by dialing 711 or one of several toll-free numbers. Texans who are deaf, hard of hearing or deaf-blind or have a speech disability will continue to receive seamless communication with hearing persons on the phone through TRS, which involves a relay operator serving as an intermediary for phone calls between a deaf user and a hearing party. The TRS operator speaks words typed by a deaf user on a text telephone (TTY) or via the Internet and relays the hearing person's spoken response by typing back to the deaf user.
CapTel Service (Captioned Telephone), developed by Ultratec, Inc., is available for those who are hard of hearing or have experienced hearing loss later in life or deaf individuals with good vocalization skills. CapTel allows nearly simultaneous voice and text captioning via a special, CapTel-equipped phone using a standard telephone line. The captions are displayed on the CapTel phone's built-in screen so the user can read the words while listening to the other party's voice.
Sprint also offers Video Relay Service (VRS), which uses a similar process but enables the deaf user to communicate in American Sign Language through a video interpreter via a computer or television monitor equipped with a Web camera or videophone instead of typing. This allows for a much more natural-sounding conversation with the hearing party. Texans may access VRS through www.txvrs.com, www.sprintvrs.com, or with a D-Link videophone (used with television monitors) by entering the IP address 'sprintvrs.tv'. This service is currently funded by the Interstate TRS fund.
Sprint IP Relay is a free service that combines TRS with the ease and ubiquity of the Internet, allowing users to make calls from any PC or selected Web-enabled Internet wireless devices without having to use traditional TTY equipment. Sprint IP Relay users also have the flexibility of using AOL Instant Messenger to access Sprint IP Relay. To connect using a website, go to www.sprintip.com. To connect using AOL Instant Messenger, send a 10-digit number to the screen name SprintIP. Both access methods will connect the caller to an experienced Sprint Relay operator.
About Sprint Nextel
Sprint Nextel offers a comprehensive range of communications services bringing mobility to consumer, business and government customers. Sprint Nextel is widely recognized for developing, engineering and deploying innovative technologies, including two robust wireless networks offering industry leading mobile data services; instant national and international walkie-talkie capabilities; and an award-winning and global Tier 1 Internet backbone. For more information, visit www.sprint.com.