Note: This is a guest blog post by Amando E. Gavino Jr., Director, Office of Network Services, ITS/FAS/GSA. He is responsible for a portfolio of contracts that provide government agencies with a diverse set of telecommunications solutions, including Networx, Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS), SATCOM, Enterprise Mobility, Connections II, and the Federal Relay Service.
Federal agencies employ many persons who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or have speech disabilities.
The Federal Relay program offers technologies to remove communication barriers for individuals with disabilities, so they can do their jobs and communicate with coworkers, supervisors, and other stakeholders including the U.S. citizens they serve.
Agencies and tribal governments also use the Federal Relay program for employees with or without disabilities to conduct official business with U.S. citizens who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or speech-challenged.
The program allows federal employees and citizens to communicate through specially-trained communications assistants or video interpreters.
In Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15), 99 federal agencies used Federal Relay services. The business volume for FY15 was $15 million.
Federal Relay has become an excellent resource for federal agencies that hire disabled individuals, including veterans who served our nation sometimes at great personal cost.
When veterans come home, we can’t let obstacles get in their way. Veterans working for the federal government rely on effective and dependable Federal Relay services to perform their jobs and communicate independently.
Trends in Accessible Technologies
Federal Relay services include Relay Conference Captioning (RCC), Video Relay Service (VRS), Video Remote Interpreting (VRI), Captioned Telephone, IP Relay (IP), and Speech-to- Speech.
RCC is the most commonly used service, followed closely by Captioned Telephone and VRS/VRI. RCC offers real-time closed-captioning. It allows federal workers with disabilities to fully participate in staff meetings, training, webinars, and conference calls.
Captioned Telephone amplifies sound and displays text on a specially designed telephone. It is the service of choice for hard-of-hearing individuals.
VRI allows employees with disabilities to communicate with supervisors and team members immediately and spontaneously via a sign language interpreter. VRI is ideal for interviews, performance reviews, and impromptu discussions with supervisors.
Meets Section 504 Requirements
Many agencies already know Federal Relay supports Rehabilitation Act Section 504 accommodations for employees with disabilities in the workplace.
You can learn more about easy-to-use Federal Relay services by attending a free training session. Contact your agency’s Section 508 Coordinator for assistance setting up an on-site Federal Relay event at your work site. Or you may contact GSA’s Federal Relay Program Manager at [email protected].
To quickly and easily order services, visit the Federal Relay website. Most Federal Relay services are accessible anywhere in the United States.
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