Telecommunication Relay Services

Image Description: On the left is a logo, green square with text in light blue in the middle and dark green "W" with light blue dots from end of tip of text "W" to the other tip. On the right is text in black, Washington on top and Relay on bottom.

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What is Washington Telecommunication Relay Services (WATRS)?

Washington Telecommunication Relay Services (WATRS) is also known as Washington Relay. It is a free service provided by ODHH to ensure equal communication access to telephone service for people who are deaf, deaf-blind, hard of hearing and speech disabled.

This service allows hearing callers to communicate with deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind and speech disabled relay users and vice versa through specially trained WATRS Communication Assistants (CA).

Telecommunication Relay Services (TRS) is available in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. territories for local and/or long distance calls with no restrictions on the number, length, or type of calls. All calls are confidential; no recordings are kept.                                       

How does WATRS work?

Anyone wishing to use WATRS should dial 711 or 1-800-833-6384 to connect with a WATRS CA, who will dial the requested number and relay the conversation between the two callers. Either a person with a hearing loss or speech disability with specialized telecommunication equipment or a person using a standard phone may initiate a call. After dialing WATRS, the person initiating the call gives the desired phone number to the WATRS CA, who then dials that number using another phone line. The WATRS CA types the standard phone user's spoken words to the person using a specialized telecommunication equipment and voices the specialized telecommunication equipment user's text messages.

For quick reference, the following WATRS brochure is available for download: Relay Brochure.

Don't Hang Up!

WATRS is designed to connect deaf, deaf-blind, hard of hearing and speech disabled people with people and businesses that use standard (voice) telephones. Although the relay services has been in existence for more than 25 years, many people don't understand how it works. Some people hang up on TRS calls because they think the CA is a telemarketer. If you hear, "Hello. This is the relay service…" when you pick up the phone, please don't hang up! You are about to talk, through a TRS provider, to a person who is deaf, hard-of-hearing, or has a speech disability.

When you experience a hang up on a relay call, please contact Washington Relay at askwashingtonrelay@dshs.wa.gov and we will contact the business to educate them about WATRS services.

Also, you may wish to consider changing the way you have your relay calls announced so instead of saying, "This is the WATRS ...." you ask the CA to begin "This is a customer of your business calling through the WATRS, " or "This is [your name] calling through WATRS." Some people have found that this kind of greeting reduces hang ups. Another option would be to ask the WATRS CA not to announce relay, and give the CA instructions as of how you'd like the call to be announced, such as "Hello, this is [your name]," however it becomes your responsibility to educate the person that you're using the WATRS (as the CA automatically becomes the third party after you take over).

How to File a Relay Complaint

If you have a complaint, comment, concerns or suggestions, you may contact a WATRS customer service representative by dialing the toll free number and providing the information listed below. You may also file a complaint through the Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) online Consumer Complaint Center by clicking on the following web link: https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us.  To file a WATRS TRS or CTS complaint, please contact a WATRS customer service rep at 1-800-974-1548 V/TTY or email us at warelay@hamiltonrelay.com.

What information to include in a Complaint?

WTRS Customer Service Representatives are available to answer questions, take customer commendations, complaints, or feedback. When calling about a specific incident, please provide the following information:

  • WATRS CA's identification number
  • Date
  • Time of call
  • Brief description of the complaint

About Washington Telecommunication Relay Service

Washington Telecommunications Relay Services (WATRS) was established to provide telephone relay services to deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, and speech disabled residents of Washington State in accordance with Title IV of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The recommendations of the 1991 Washington State TTY Task Force resulted in legislation that established TRS under ODHH.

ODHH is certified by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as a TRS administrator for Washington State. Presently, through a competitive procurement process, Hamilton Relay is the TRS provider for Washington State, offering TRS and Captioned Telephone Service to state residents.

Federal Communication Commission (FCC)

Title IV of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires the telecommunication relay services. The FCC oversees Title IV. States and telecommunication providers are responsible to provide telecommunication relay services to ensure people with hearing loss and speech disabilities achieve functionally equivalent access to telecommunication services. The FCC establishes rules and makes decisions that affect people with hearing loss and speech disabilities, states, telecommunication providers and relay providers. The FCC is required to gather public comment before making these rules and decisions. The FCC regulates TRS (including Captioned Telephone Service), Internet-based relay services and video relay services. At this time, states are responsible for the provision of telecommunication relay services only.

For more information: https://www.fcc.gov/accessibility