Telecommunications Relay Service

Relay Service Number - 711 - Nationwide


What is a Relay Service?

The Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) enables people who have difficulty hearing or speaking on the telephone to communicate with standard voice telephone users.


Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) operators, also called Relay Representatives, are always available. When you place a call through this free telephone service, a Relay Representative will convert the words you say into typed words, so that someone who has difficulty hearing on the phone can read what you are saying. The person you are calling can answer you verbally, or type a response that a relay representative reads to you. In order to communicate this way, they will need a phone used by persons with hearing and speech disabilities, called a TTY.


What is a TTY?

TTY’s are also called text telephones, teletypewriters, or TDD's. Looking much like a typewriter keyboard with a text screen, a TTY allows persons with hearing and/or speech loss to make or receive telephone calls by typing their conversations, via two-way text. The conversation is read on a lighted display screen and/or a paper printout in the TTY.


Who uses the Relay Service?

People who can hear and speak clearly

People who can hear and speak clearly can make or receive relay calls.  Many places of business, government agencies, family, friends, and employers of persons with hearing and speech disabilities make and receive relay calls everyday.  And they don’t need special equipment to use relay.


People who are deaf, hard-of-hearing or deaf/blind

People who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or deaf/blind who cannot or do not wish to speak on the phone can place or receive calls through the relay service.  They use the relay service to make calls to people and businesses that do not have a TTY at their home or place of business.  The person who is deaf or hard-of-hearing uses a TTY to type their part of the conversation; the Relay Representative then reads their words to the person they called.  The Relay Representative then types the spoken response back to the caller.  People who are deaf/blind use a TTY with a refreshable Braille display.


People who can speak clearly but have difficulty hearing

People who can speak clearly but have difficulty hearing can place or receive calls through the relay service.  Many people in this category are senior citizens.  This type of relay call is Voice Carry Over (VCO) because the hard of hearing person’s voice is “carried over” to the other party.  In this category, no typing is required, except by a Relay Representative.  Everything that the other person says is typed by a relay representative and the words appear as text on the VCO user’s TTY or VCO phone.


People who can hear clearly but have difficulty speaking on the phone

People who can hear clearly but have difficulty speaking on the phone can place or receive calls using the relay service.  This type of relay call is Hearing Carry Over (HCO) because the person with a speech disability is able to “hear” the other party’s voice.  HCO users can type what they want to say on their TTY.  A Relay Representative then reads their words to the person they called.  Three-way calling is necessary for a HCO call.


711 Relay Access Service

As of October 1, 2001, you will no longer need to dial the 800 number to access the relay service in the United States.  The FCC has reserved 7-1-1 for relay service access.


Making and receiving Relay Service calls

Don’t Hang Up!

If you receive a telephone call and a person says, “The Michigan Relay Center is calling,” don’t hang up!  Some people mistake this announcement as a crank or telemarketing call.


When initiating a Relay Service call

The first time you call the Relay Service, you may hear tones similar to those of a modem.  Continue to stay on the line until the relay representative picks up.  The Relay Center computer system then records your preference (based on the number assigned to the phone you used to call the Center) to use the service with a telephone rather than a TTY.


Full Content/Context

Relay representatives are trained and instructed in conveying the full content, context, and intent of the relay conversation they translate.  Calls made through the Relay Center are not edited.  Relay Representatives are also forbidden to disclose any information from the calls and no records of conversations are kept.


Every effort is taken to maintain functional equivalence for both parties during a relay call.  All secondary activities that would normally be known to a hearing person engaged in a telephone conversation (i.e., background noises, side conversations, other people coming on the line, etc.) are relayed to the extent possible.  For example, the representative my type background noises that are heard such as “baby crying,” “loud radio,” “noisy,” etc.


"Go Ahead"

So that the conversation flows smoothly, say "Go Ahead" each time you have finished speaking.  This lets the Relay Representative know you are ready for the TTY user's response.  The TTY user types "GA" (go ahead) each time they have finished typing.



Charges for calls through the Relay Center, whether local or long distance, are charged the same as if the hearing or speech-impaired person had dialed the other person directly.


Additional Services

Speech-to-Speech (800) 229-5746

Speech-to-speech (STS) relay services enables a person with a speech disability to communicate on the telephone by using his/her own voice, voice synthesizer, voice enhancer, or other assistive device to communicate to the non-disabled called party.


Communication Assistants (CA) are specially trained to be able to listen carefully to the STS user whose speech disability may range from a mild to a severe speech loss.  The STS CA provides facilitation and “revoicing” assistance to the STS caller upon request.  The voice telephone user speaks directly to the individual with the speech disability, without having to go through the CA.