GSA Awards Telephone Relay Service Contract

The General Services Administration awarded a contract to telecommunications giant Sprint Friday for a nationwide telephone relay service that gives intermediary assistance to speech and hearing-impaired individuals.

The Federal Relay Service, or FRS, contract is valued at about $49 million and has a ceiling of $100 million over five years. The contract will incorporate new relay technology as it becomes available and will allow agency users to establish a task order for a direct ordering and direct billing arrangement and pay for usage minutes on a monthly basis.

Telephone relay services increase employment opportunities for individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf or blind, or have speech disabilities by providing reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. Employees use a text-telephone (TTY) to communicate with federal employees able to hear who do not have a TTY. Calls are relayed using specially trained communication assistants that act as confidential conduits for the information.

The 1988 Telecommunications Accessibility Enhancement Act requires GSA to issue regulations that assure access to federal agencies for hearing- and speech-impaired individuals. GSA established FRS to fulfill this mandate and to ensure the federal telecommunication system is fully accessible to those Americans who are hearing and speech impaired.