Sprint has added new services allowing deaf and hard-of-hearing students to communicate on the phone via an online operator who types out the conversation or a video feed showing sign language.

Known as Sprint Relay, the service is part of the company’s Web-based Empowered Education Desktop, a Web-based product that enables school districts to provide advanced learning and administrative tools to students and teachers.

“This is a great advancement for students and for the Sprint Empowered Education Desktop,” said Mike Werth, Sprint director of marketing. “Deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing impaired students can now easily communicate with other students, teachers and family around the world. By connecting the hearing with the non-hearing in this manner, students will be able to learn in ways they haven’t been able to before.”

The Empowered Education Desktop combines Sprint’s communications network with the delivery of a listing of educational curriculum and learning tools from K-12 content providers.

To use Sprint Relay services on the Empowered Education Desktop, students simply type in the phone number they wish to call, and an operator connects with that number. People who are deaf or hard-of-hearing type their conversations and the operators then read aloud to the receivers, who respond by the operators typing the messages back to the individuals placing the call.

Students can also use a Video Relay service, in which they reach operators who use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate with a caller and then relay the message to the hearing party at the other end of the line. Sprint high-speed connections and a webcam help make this more-natural type of relay service possible (ASL allows more fluid conversations versus the required typing of a traditional relay call).

“The Empowered Education Desktop enables greater access to learning and administrative tools than provided by traditional technology delivery systems used in schools,” Werth said. “This allows students and their families to access the Empowered Education Desktop in the classroom or at home. Combining Sprint Relay services with the Sprint Empowered Desktop increases the effectiveness of the desktop in servicing students, teachers and families with special needs.”

Sprint is one of the leading providers of telecommunications relay services, which include video and Internet relay, with over a decade of experience. The U.S. government, 30 states (including North Carolina) and Puerto Rico currently rely on Sprint’s 11 relay operations centers to provide service to millions of deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing-impaired customers.

Sprint Relay: www.sprint.com/relay