Would you hang up on a deaf person?
summit daily news
SUMMIT COUNTY ” When Cizzy Boggan’s cat had a seizure June 5, she called a veterinarian. He hung up on her twice, thinking it was a recording.
Boggan was born deaf. She uses Relay Colorado, a service that provides phone access to people who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind or speech-disabled.
On Sunday, she dialed 711, which connects her to an operator. She gave the operator Woody Shelton’s, the Silverthorne veterinarian, number. Once connected, the operator announced himself, but didn’t understand what was going on. When the operator said, “This is operator relay number XXX,” he hung up.
“I thought it was a hustle,” Shelton said. “It was confusing. I didn’t know what it was or from where it was coming. It sounded like a mechanical recording.”
When Boggan called the second time, she typed instructions to the operator to simply say, “A cat is having a seizure. Can you help?”
Shelton told the operator cats are not his specialty (his phone book ad says his practice is limited to horses), and he hung up.
Boggan deals with such problems on a daily basis. It usually takes an average of five tries before she completes a call and conveys the intended information, because many people who aren’t familiar with relay calls tend to hang up. She makes about 10 relay calls a week, which means about 50 calls total.
Dana Demeter has the same problem. She works in Frisco at the Summit Daily News, and the last time she tried to order food to go from the Backcountry Brewery through the relay system, employees hung up on her twice.
She finally showed up in person, and they apologized profusely, explaining they thought the calls were telemarketers.
If people do accept the relay call, it’s not without inconveniences. While many calls go smoothly, some operators are slower than others.
When Boggan made a call Monday afternoon, it took 61 seconds to relay about three sentences due to delay in typing between the operator and Boggan. The call began: “Relay operator No. XXX with a relay call. Can you hang on please?”
When the receiver said “Yes,” there was a long pause. The operator did not explain that once one party finishes her thought and wants a response, she has to say “go ahead,” and this lack of information further delayed the communication.
All operators complete extensive training on equipment and reading scripts. In Colorado, a hearing-impaired caller also can ask the operator to forego the script and use another specific introduction, such as “Hi, I have a person who is deaf on the phone,” which creates a more personal connection.
According to the script, operators announce themselves as “Relay operator No. XXX,” then ask if the person has received a relay request before. If the answer is no, the operator explains the process.
Though the operator didn’t ask the receiver of Boggan’s call if she had ever received a relay call, Sprint public relations spokesperson Stephanie Taliaferro says she hasn’t had complaints about the service.
“This is the first I’ve heard of this issue,” Taliaferro said.
Sprint also has sent out Do Not Hang Up packets to business along the Front Range to educate them about the calls. However, Sprint hasn’t sent any to Summit County businesses, Taliaferro said.
A new website, which should be running in August, can further educate businesses.
And, on the whole, the service has opened a whole new world to deaf callers. Before the service, people who were deaf had to rely on a person who could hear and speak to complete a call ” plus, e-mail was not common.
The service began 13 years ago in Colorado. It is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. All calls are confidential, and there are no restrictions on the number or length of calls. A 6 cent monthly surcharge on all wire lines funds the program.
Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the relay service, visit: http://www.dora.state.co.us/puc/telecom/relay_colorado.htm or http://www.colorado.edu/telecom/HearingImpaired/relaycolorado.html
If a business wants to order a Do Not Hang Up educational packet call Kristine Shipley at (303) 801 3871.
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