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 Article of Interest - Speech Disabilities

FACT SHEET: Telephone Access for People with Speech Disabilities

from Dr. Bob Segelman, February 21, 2003
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If you have a speech disability and live in the USA (including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands), you can now use a new, free telephone service 24 hours a day. This service, called Speech to Speech (STS), provides communication assistants (CAs) for people with difficulty being understood by the public on the telephone. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington DC regulates relay service: STS is a form of relay service. STS is also available during limited hours in Sweden and Australia.

STS is provided through the TTY relay in each state. Unlike TTY, STS enables people with speech disabilities to communicate by voice through a CA as many people with speech disabilities have difficulty typing.

People with speech disabilities can dial toll free to reach a patient, trained CA who is familiar with many speech patterns and has excellent language recognition skills. This CA makes telephone calls for them and repeats their words exactly in a 3-way calling environment. Every month users make about 6,000 calls nationally. STS is the only way for many people to telephone others not accustomed to their speech.

Many STS users have Parkinson's disease, cerebral palsy, ALS, multiple sclerosis, or muscular dystrophy. Other users stutter or have had a laryngectomy.

STS also helps some speech synthesizer users, users of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC.) AAC users may ask the STS CA set up the call, negotiate the menu, introduce the call explaining AAC and then go into the background. This enables AAC users to communicate independently once the other party is on the line.

In Minnesota and Texas, Deaf Voice Carryover (VCO) Relay users with slurred speech can combine VCO with STS to facilitate communication.

Bob Segalman, Ph.D. has cerebral palsy and developed the concept of STS. Now it makes telephone use much easier for him. To try out STS, report problems or get more information: Call 800-854-7784 and ask for Dr. Bob Segalman (direct 916-263-8689). You may also visit the STS website: or contact Katherine Keller at to place you on the STS List Serve.

Bob 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, please e-mail Bob at: and indicate which state you live in and request a draft.

For a list of U. S. Speech-to-Speech access numbers go to:

You can also access STS by dialing 711 and asking for Speech to Speech. If the communications assistant can not assist you with an STS call, please let Bob know by e-mail stating your name, date and time of call, location, and telephone number.

Australia provides Speech to Speech Relay (SSR). Contact: Bobbie Blackson at  

Sweden has just extended its STS trial for one year. Contact: Birgit G Lindh at  Tel.0046-175 623 68 (work)

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