GSA seeking telecom services for the hearing impaired

The General Services Administration is recompeting its Federal Relay Services contract, a vehicle for agencies to procure telecommunications services for the deaf and hard of hearing and for people with speech disabilities.

Sprint holds the contract, but its term is nearing expiration. GSA expects to award the follow-on contract in November. At the heart of the service is a group of interpreters who receive the communication from users with disabilities and relay it to the other individual on the call, and vice versa. However, the technology through which that is accomplished is advancing, said Kathy Kemerer, branch chief of quality assurance and lead for the Federal Relay Services at GSA. "We started out with just text where individuals used the old TTY [text telephone] devices and the interpreter would turn around and speak," she said. "We've evolved into more advanced applications, such as video relay." Callers now can use sign language over the video link, which the interpreters pass on using spoken words. Other technologies, including text messaging, will be part of the new Federal Relay Services contract, she said. "We want to see at a minimum the current technologies we have available. We have a provision in the contract that, as new technologies are matured, we'll add them to the contract."

Featured

  • FCW PERSPECTIVES
    sensor network (agsandrew/Shutterstock.com)

    Are agencies really ready for EIS?

    The telecom contract has the potential to reinvent IT infrastructure, but finding the bandwidth to take full advantage could prove difficult.

  • People
    Dave Powner, GAO

    Dave Powner audits the state of federal IT

    The GAO director of information technology issues is leaving government after 16 years. On his way out the door, Dave Powner details how far govtech has come in the past two decades and flags the most critical issues he sees facing federal IT leaders.

  • FCW Illustration.  Original Images: Shutterstock, Airbnb

    Should federal contracting be more like Airbnb?

    Steve Kelman believes a lighter touch and a bit more trust could transform today's compliance culture.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.