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Service for deaf, hard of hearing helps with conferencing

Deaf and hard of hearing individuals in Arizona can now actively participate in meetings (in-person or remote), phone calls, videoconferencing and multi-party teleconference calls with Relay Conference Captioning.

The free service offered by Arizona Relay Service (ARS) provides quick captioning of everything that is being said during any type of group meeting.

Similar to the closed captioning seen on live television, stenographers working through ARS listen in on the meeting and deliver real-time text streamed to an internet-connected computer, mobile device or tablet anywhere in the world. The user of the service may request complete transcripts of the meeting after the call is completed.

Ken Arcia, a spokesman for Arizona Relay Service who became deaf at 21 due to Neurofibromatosis, Type 2, said this service makes a huge difference, especially in the business world.

He knows from personal experience how difficult it is to follow what’s going on in a meeting when one is deaf or hard of hearing.

“It’s awful, because you’re trying to track people, but there’s overlapping conversation,” Arcia said.

To take advantage of Relay Conference Captioning, go to www.arizonarcc.com to schedule the service. A conference call captioner is guaranteed if the event is booked with at least 48 hours advance notice (two working days). Calls must occur during regular business hours, begin at or later than 8 a.m. and must conclude at or prior to 6 p.m. in your time zone.

This new service is only one of many offered by Arizona Relay Service.

Federal law requires every state in the U.S. to offer a telecommunications relay service.

These systems are designed to allow those who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, or have a speech disorder to place calls to standard telephone users via a keyboard or assistive device.

The service is free to use and is funded by a surcharge on all Arizona ratepayers’ landline telephone statements.

As part of his job, Ken frequently visits businesses to correct a common misunderstanding.

“I train businesses on when they get a relay call, don’t hang up,” Arcia said.

He explained that the calls usually start with a relay service employee asking the receiver of the call whether or not they’ve received a relay call before.

“It’s not a salesperson trying to sell you something,” Arcia said. “They may actually be a customer wanting to buy something from your company.”

The organization also has a telephone equipment program. It allows anyone with hearing loss or a speech disability to get free equipment such as telephones with amplifiers or captions from the state.

For more information on RCC, visit arizonarcc.com.

Follow Max Efrein on Twitter @mefrein. Reach him at 928-445-3333, ext. 1105, or 928-642-7864.