Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Case for AIM Relay

For many years (ten?), there was a form of text IP-Relay that used AIM. In order to make a call, an AIM user would sign on to AIM, select the screen name My IP Relay, the caller would enter the phone number to call, and then the system would assign an operator to take the call. From there, the operator would call the requested number and act as an in-between during the call. Basically, the person would type the message, and the operator would read it aloud to the hearing person on the other end. The hearing person would then respond using voice to the operator, who would transcribe what was said in text for the deaf caller to read.

For the last several years, Purple has been the sole provider of AIM IP-Relay. Previously, IP-Relay, including AIM-based IP-Relay, was provided by Hamilton Relay, Sorenson, and AT&T. Over time, they quit. Now Purple has stopped offering IP-Relay, which means the deaf, deafblind, and speech impaired, no longer have an AIM-based text relay service.

Major advantages of IM-based relay (some of these advantages come from comments filed with the FCC):
  • If the power is out, the AIM users could still communicate using their phones
  • Deaf-blind users can easily expand the font sizes
  • Deaf-blind users who can not see sign language, but could see enough to use a computer, could use AIM relay
  • AIM users can be anywhere physically – they are not tied to a computer
  • AIM has a web-only version called WebAIM, so users who do not install the software can access AIM from any computer
  • The 10-digit phone numbers given out by IP-Relay had area codes corresponding to where the user lived. That was very important for deaf business owners and job seekers
  • AIM gave users the ability to see calls come in due to the IM client’s ability to flash the icon at the bottom of the screen. With Sprint’s IP-Relay, users can make calls but can not see calls come in.
  • Some users do not want to be seen on a VRS service for privacy reasons
  • Users who did not sign or who lacked good sign skills, needed AIM
  • Because a user’s AIM screen name was tied to their registered, verified IP-Relay account, the user did not need to sign in. Sprint’s IP-Relay requires users to sign in with a user name and password.
Many people have suggested the relatively new InnoCaption service as an alternative. While InnoCaption does allow for text-based communication, InnoCaption is not the answer for everyone who had depended on AIM relay!
  • InnoCaption requires a voice and data plan. Many deaf people have data-only plans because they can't use the voice services. Do we now need to upgrade to more expensive voice and data plans, wasting money on voice services that we can’t use?
  • Some people work in workplaces that do not allow cell phones. Those employees obviously can not use Innocaption on the job.
  • InnoCaption does not allow porting of existing IP-Relay 10 digit numbers over to InnoCaption due to their using a specific area code that is totally different from the 10-digit numbers from IP-Relay that had area codes linked to where users lived.
If you are someone who had depended on AIM Relay or simply preferred it (some deaf people simply prefer text to video), file a comment or complaint with the Federal Communications Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System at Several people already have!

Below are two blog posts which explain more about the issues behind the end of Purple’s IP-Relay service.


Unknown said...

Actually, one problem with InnoCaptions is that it's one of these one-way captioned telephone services, not unlike Purple Communications' Clear Captions. You can't type back on it or anything. Bascially "VRS Technology" for late-deafened and old people. :-)

RLM said...

Great blog! Real good one!

Don't forget to include that not all public places able to carry out video relay services due to weak wi fi frequency or block any video capability as I coukdnt use VRS or VP so far.

The text-based relay services will give us a real option as an alternative way to gett around weak wi fi capability.

Thanks a zillion times for doing this blog!

ASLizes your,
Robert Mason