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Conference Call Instructions for Deaf or Hearing Impaired

Special instructions for individuals who are Deaf, hard-of-hearing, or have speech/communication difficulties:


Would you like to participate in MitoAction’s conferences, but are unable to use a standard telephone? If you have access to the internet or a cell phone, you may receive communications assistance via one of several federally-funded telecommunications relay services. This article will introduce you to the types of relay systems available to people living in the US who have disabilities that affect communication, such as hearing or speech difficulties, and provide assistance with the registration process required by the FCC.  


What is a relay system?


The ADA defines relay services as telephone services that enable people who are deaf or hard of hearing, or who have a speech impairment, to communicate with a person who can hear in a manner that is “functionally equivalent” to the ability of individuals without disabilities.   A significant percentage of individuals with Mito and other neuromuscular or metabolic diseases fall into this category, which also includes communication difficulties such as slow or slurred speech, word-finding difficulties, a soft or weak voice, or the use of respiratory equipment that interferes with speech.


When the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in 1990, telephone companies nationwide were required to support Universal Access through the creation of relay services.[1]  More information is provided here.


Unfortunately, the Telecommunications Relay System, especially the IP Relay system, has been a target for fraudulent use by people who are looking for a way to obtain a free, untraceable, confidential way to make telephone calls.  Relay services have been used to procure illegal drugs, place illegal cash transfers, purchase merchandise with stolen credit cards, and place pornographic or harassing phone calls.[2]  In 2004, studies showed that 80-90% of all IP relay calls placed were fraudulent.[3]  As a result individuals with speech or hearing disabilities need to register for a 10-digit telephone number before using any type of relay services.[4]


What is IP Relay?  IP Relay is a system that permits individuals with hearing or speech disabilities to place a call to almost every telephone number in the United States by typing a message and reading a written response, in a manner similar to Instant Messaging.  IP relay calls are placed on a desktop or laptop computer, and require USB or wireless access to a high-speed internet service.  IP Relay is the most popular type of relay assistance used by adults who have hearing or speech difficulties that have developed as a result of adult-onset hearing loss and other medical conditions. 




 How do I register for IP Relay Service?

  1. Go to  Click on "Create new profile/registration" in the top left corner.  It will ask you to provide your email address, and to create a username and password. Note: You will need to register for a separate 10-digit number for each type of relay service, such as IP Relay and Mobile IP Relay. You do not need to have any commercial accounts with Sprint to use these services.
  2. The next page requires you to provide your street address and other information.  This info is only used if you dial 911 from a relay number, and to cross-reference the relay user’s IP address and physical location if there is strong suspicion that the call is originating outside the US.  It also helps cut down on the number of fraudulent calls that are made by people abusing the service.  According to the Sprint Relay site, it might take up to a few days to verify your name and address and compare it to your IP address.  (However, in March 2015, I re-registered in order to test the system, and I received an approval email and 10-digit number almost immediately.)
  3. Once you have the approval email with your Username, go to Sprint’s IP Relay page. ( )  Enter the username and password that you created earlier, and call a friend or relative to confirm that the IP Relay system is working properly.   Please note: you will need to place and receive all calls from the website.
  4. Relay callers experience a slight time delay during conference calls, which can make entering a discussion and asking questions a bit awkward.  If you are participating in a MitoAction Teleconference, It may help to email Cristy to let her know that you will be using IP Relay to access the teleconference, and to send her any questions you would like to ask the guest speaker. 
  5. During any type of relay-assisted call, the role of the relay operator/Communication Assistant is to facilitate, rather than participate, in the conversation.   Speak directly to the other person involved in the call, rather than asking the operator to "tell her" or "tell him" information.  Keep in mind that everything you type will be read aloud to whomever you are calling, and everything that the operator hears, including sounds and side conversations, will be typed for you to read.   
  6. Be sure to tell the relay operator/Communication Assistant (CA) that you will be listening to a teleconference, and approximately how long the relay-assisted call will last.  During a teleconference, participants generally spend most of the session listening to the speaker, or reading the relay transcript.  Participants are invited to introduce themselves before the speaker begins the session, and are encouraged to ask questions towards the end of the teleconference. In order to minimize inadvertent interruptions, the teleconference facilitator often mutes the participants’ phones while the guest presents his or her topic.  As a result, the relay caller may spend a considerable amount of time reading the relay operator/CA’s typed transcription typing a response.  If the CA is unaware that this will happen, he or she may end the call.  Due to the length of the call, it is not unusual for CA’s to take turns typing.  Relay calls are supported by federal funding through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  There is no charge to either the caller or the recipient.  Relay-assisted calls can be made to and from anywhere in the continental U.S.  There are no limits on the day, time, or length of calls you place or receive via a relay service.
  7.  After the teleconference, you need to end the call.  Since there's no phone to hang up, all you have to do is type "End call.  Thank you operator #_____", and you're all set.  You can copy and paste the entire call onto a document and save it if you want to review the information later. 


If you have any questions related to adult-onset hearing loss or communication difficulties related to Mito, feel free to contact Heidi at


 For more information, go to


 Exposing the IP Relay Scam: