Mass Relay and MassMatch: Enabling Independence

Photo of TTY. Taken by myself, released into p...

Photo of TTY. Taken by myself, released into public domain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this post we’d like to provide information on two services available in Massachusetts: Mass Relay and Mass Match.

Since the late 1960s TTY, or tele-typewriter, has been connecting people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing to other telephone users via text communication rather than voice. These sytems are also called  TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf). Before this technology people had to drive to friends’ homes to talk to them or had to ask hearing people for help making phone calls.

A basic TTY consists of a keyboard, a display screen, and a modem, which operates over standard telephone lines. If a deaf individual is communicating with another TTY user, both users send and receive text. If a deaf individual is communicating with a hearing individual who doesn’t have a TTY, they will use the Telecommunication Relay Service (TRS).  In Massachusetts, the service is called MassRelay. It is  free, confidential and available 24/7.

Mass RElay Logo

How does it work? A Relay Operator (OPR) completes the call, dialing the person the caller wish to contact and then staying on the line to relay messages electronically via a TTY or verbally to people who can hear. OPRs provide exact transcriptions of what they hear and speak what is typed to them, unless the caller directs them to do otherwise.

In some areas, services have gradually expanded to include almost any real-time text capable technology such as a personal computer, laptop, mobile phone, PDA, and many other devices.  It will be interesting to ask a representative of Mass Relay at the Whole Community Preparedness Summit what technology changes they see on the horizon.

massMatch logo

Where can people get access to assistive technologies, such as TTY? 

Although MassMATCH, is not a relay service (or a dating site), they do connect people. The “MATCH” part of their name stands for “Maximizing Assistive Technology in Consumer’s Hands.” This Assistive Technology (AT) initiative is one of 56 state-level AT projects in the United States.  Their stated goal is “to improve access to assistive technology so that people with disabilities can live, work, study, play, and participate independently in all aspects of their communities.”

What is AT?

Assistive technology can be a “device” or a “service.” A device is any item, piece of equipment or system that increases, maintains or improves the functional capabilities of people with disabilities. Assistive technology devices help people with disabilities do what they are able to do better and longer.

Interestingly, AT includes both high and low tech solutions. You can find more about this organization on their community blog–they also have a Facebook page.

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