Monthly Archives: August 2015

Michigan’s Relay Service


By MATP Staff Member Laura Hall

 flow chart showing a call through a TTY user, through a communication assistant and ending with the voice caller

Last week, I began a search to see if Michigan Disability Rights Coalition had a TTY (a text telephone) to communicate to callers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.  As the Assistive Technology Information Coordinator, I was embarrassed that I didn’t already know this.  After some detective work, I learned that we had a TTY but it stopped working.  As technology changes, like other organizations, we had chosen not to replace it but ask callers to use the Michigan Relay Service, who could provide more services than just TTY to TTY calls.  By simply dialing 711 you are automatically connected with the service. When you connect with The Michigan  Relay Services , a Communication Assistant (CA) will facilitate your call – promptly, professionally and accurately. All relay calls are confidential and no records are kept of relay conversations Depending on you disability, speaking and hearing abilities, different services are available.  For example:

 TTY (Text Telephone)
TTY is the most common way to connect to Relay, allowing people who are deaf or hard of hearing to type their messages and read the other party’s responses.

VCO (Voice Carry Over) VCO is an effective service for people who have hearing loss and use their voice on the phone. VCO users speak directly to the person being called and, through specialized equipment, read what is spoken by the other party.

HCO (Hearing Carry Over) HCO is especially useful for people who can hear, but who regularly or occasionally have difficulty speaking over the phone. HCO users listen directly to the person called and, through specialized equipment, type their responses to the other party.

DBS (Deaf-Blind Service)

DBS allows people with combined hearing and vision loss to place and receive telephone calls. DBS users type their messages and read the other party’s responses, typed by the CA, on a braille display.

STS (Speech-to-Speech)

STS is especially useful for people who have difficulty speaking or being understood on the telephone. STS Relay involves specially trained Communication Assistants (CA) who are familiar with the speech patterns of a wide variety of individuals who have difficulty being understood. The CA repeats the STS user’s side of the telephone conversation as needed, to ensure that the entire conversation is understood.

Captioned Telephone (CapTel® ) Captioned Telephone is a no cost service that allows users to listen to their phone conversations while reading word-for-word captions of what’s said to them. Through the use of a uniquely designed CapTel phone, users speak directly to the other party and listen and read the other party’s response. Captions appear on the bright, built-in display screen of the CapTel phone, just moments after the other party has spoken.


Voice Relay allows standard phone users to communicate with individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind or have difficulty speaking and who may use a TTY, TeleBraille, or other assistive telecommunications device. A Communication Assistant (CA) facilitates the call by relaying messages between the individuals, according to their communication needs.


All of the above services are available for Spanish speaking callers as well.

The Michigan Relay Services also allows you to set up a profile with your preferences, outlining what services you need, numbers on speed dial, your standard greeting, message for answering machines and more.

Putting my embarrassment aside, I am glad that my ignorance about having a TTY led me to learn more about the Michigan Relay Service and the variety of services they provide.  There were more services than I expected.

So, hey, 711 (call) me sometime!  Wink!


Accessible Outdoor Recreation in Ottawa County Parks


By Aimee Sterk, LMSW, MATP Staff

I just held my 40th birthday party at Kirk Park on Lake Michigan in Ottawa County. When scoping out the accessibility features of the park, my friend and I came upon two Ottawa County staff people who were just finishing up their work updating the lodge. They happily gave us a tour of

A woman standing at the water's edge with dunes behind and waves in front swooping her hands down and fling water up into the sky.

My friend Rachel enjoying the beach at Kirk Park.

all of the improvements—and I was really excited to see accessible picnic tables, expanded and accessible restrooms, and universal design features that would benefit all. They are soon adding in pathways that are more accessible as well. Kirk is my favorite park because of its beautiful dune features, back dune woods, gorgeous beach, and its dog beach. I feel lucky to live where I do–Ottawa County residents have voted in a specific park millage to help pay for park expansions and improvements and I’m so glad increasing accessibility is a part of these expansion plans.another view of the kayak launch with no boat on it so you can see the floating plastic cradle to hold the boat between the rails that you hold onto to get in and out of the boat and launch the boat.

Aimee is wearing a feisty and non-compliant t-shirt sitting on the edge of a platform that extends to the opening of her kayak with rails along both sides to transfer to the kayak.

I tested out the accessible kayak launch at Eastmanville Bayou

I first noticed the focus on accessibility when kayaking on the Grand River from Eastmanville Bayou. The county added an accessible kayak launch there. I had been kayaking for a couple of years and had been looking for ways to share the hobby sport with friends with physical and other disabilities that made getting in and out of the kayak difficult. My husband and I quickly made plans to come back with one of our friends and we all found the accessible launch easy to use—and again really a universal design as I sometimes fall getting in and out of kayaks, but with the accessible launch I stayed dry.

Ottawa County Parks established a Grand River Heritage Water Trail and have added two additional

Aimee is sitting in the kayak with her paddle out in front and a line of trees behind her.

Aimee kayaking one of the bayous on the Grand River

accessible kayak launches at Connor Bayou Park and Grand River Park. Trail maps and information are available that also list key features to explore as you kayak the longest river in Michigan.

In visiting the Ottawa County Parks’ website while prepping to write this blog, it was great to see that universal access is very much a goal of the park staff—right on the park amenities page—“ We are striving to make the County Parks universally accessible. Please see the individual park page for details about barrier free facilities or contact the parks office.”

We recently had a webinar on AT for your accessible picnic and covered accessible locations for picnics. I’m excited to live in a county that is working to make sure outdoor recreation is accessible to all and providing accessible picnic locations as well as other outdoor activities as we soak in the remaining days of this Michigan summer. Getting outdoors very much helps my mental health disabilities and I live in a place that provides year-round natural beauty.

What outdoor activities do you enjoy? Is your local park system working on accessibility? Have they made it a priority? What improvements would you like to see?


Using CART for Communication Access


By Ann Liming, Hearing Technology Resource Specialist, Hearing Loss Association of American, Michigan Chapter.

Man typing looking at screen with text Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) is a word-for-word speech-to-text translation of all spoken words and environmental sounds. It benefits people who are hard of hearing, late deafened or oral deaf. The CART captioner uses a steno machine (like those used by court reporters in a court room) a computer and real-time software to provide instant speech-to-text translation. The text can be displayed on a computer monitor or other display when used by a single person or small group. Text can be displayed on a large screen when used by a large group. CART captions can be provided on-site or remotely and can be streamed to personal laptops, tablets and smartphones.
CART is beneficial in many different listening environments. Imagine a student – K-12 or post-secondary – having full access to all of the communication that takes place in a classroom. Or, what would it be like to hear every word spoken at a government or civic function as well as conventions and conferences. People who cannot hear often feel excluded at religious services, funerals and weddings. CART can provide communication access in nearly every communication situation.

In its brochure, CART – Communication Access to people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) states, “The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates the elimination of discrimination against people with disabilities. Under the ADA, CART is recognized as an assistive technology that affords ‘effective communication access.’ “ Thus, it is the right of any person with a hearing loss to request CART as an accommodation for any situation where they would be excluded from participating because they could not hear what was being communicated.
The benefits of captioning are numerous. The ability to participate fully in life which leads to confidence to join into conversations and take an active part in one’s community. Equal access to communication can lead to satisfaction in one’s personal and professional life. The freedom to choose how one accesses communication is empowering and leads to independence.

For more information about CART, see the NCRA web site at To assure high quality captions, the NCRA certifies CART providers. Find a Certified CART Provider (CCP) in your area .


Emergency Prep: Communicate Efficiently and Effectively


By MATP Staff Member M. Catherine McAdam

pencil on form for Emergency Prep checklistI just learned about a free webinar scheduled for August 13, 2015 from the ADA National Network/FEMA Webinar Series. This webinar will discuss emergency preparedness and communication needs in part from the perspective of the first responder. Here’s the information about the webinar:

“Strengthening Emergency Communication Strategies Among Responders and People who are Disproportionally Impacted”

This got me thinking! I often think about what I or someone else would need to communicate in an emergency, and how to do that. There are many single message communication devices that give you ten seconds to say what you think is most important. There are communication boards to evaluate pain, or attempt to give medical communication. For more information please see: Augmentative Communication, AAC Evaluation, Speech Devices.  Additionally, there’s the stand-by medic alert bracelet, the medic alert,  and there are many apps:

  • AAC Apps Simplified
  • AAC Apps
  • A new app, at least to me, is the smart-911

For people with disabilities emergencies aren’t just the full blown disasters, like floods and fires, it can be a failure of technology we’ve become dependent on; a GPS that gives erroneous directions, or a caregiver who doesn’t show up on any given day. These types of emergencies are too often a way of life! So I may be focused very much on myself and my needs.

Have you practiced what you would say in ten seconds, or recommend someone else record? Have you given thought to a backup plan to a battery failure? What does the first responder need to know to be able to help me? Here are some of my ideas:

  • My emergency contact person clearly written and easily available.
  • A list of my medications and allergies
  • Help for my service animal

Perhaps this webinar will give us new food for thought. Check it out live on August 13, or look for the archived version later. MATP has items to help with communication in emergencies. To learn more about these and to schedule an individual hands on demonstration of the devices, see device demonstrations.

What is your plan for those every day emergencies? Thanks for sharing!