Visually Assisted Speech-to-Speech (VA STS)

The California Relay Service (CRS) is offering a service that can enhance the Relay experience of individuals with a speech disability: Visually Assisted Speech-to-Speech (VA STS) This service came into effect May 1, 2012.

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What is VA STS?

 VA STS is an enhancement to the traditional Speech-to- Speech (STS) service. With a VA STS call, in addition to a basic phone call to the Relay service, the STS caller is also using a webcam or videophone with SkypeTM to connect with the Communications Assistant (CA) at the Relay call center. (The equipment and Internet service to access the video service are required to make a VA STS call but are not provided by CRS.) This one-way video connection allows the CA to see the STS user as they are speaking. Seeing the STS caller’s mouth movements, facial expressions, and gestures, and possibly even cue cards (e.g., yes, no, etc.) or alpha cards can enable the CA to better understand and re-voice for the caller. Users of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices can also share the information they are typing via SkypeTM using computer emulation.
This new service is currently available in English only. Individuals with a speech disability using the service can place and receive calls using VA STS. VA STS is offered by the CRS provider, Hamilton Relay. See table below for details about the different VA STS features that are offered.

What do I need to use VA STS?

  •  A computer (PC or Apple®) with a webcam or comparable equipment to access the video service;
  •  A telephone near the video device for the voice connection to the VA STS CA (A device with a speakerphone is recommended);
  •  Access to high-speed Internet with a minimum bandwidth of 256k upload/download speed. See the SkypeTM Web site for specific system requirements and bandwidth requirements to make SkypeTM video calls; 
  •  The ability to operate the equipment (independently or with the assistance of a caregiver).

    Users are strongly encouraged to set up a Customer Profile that identify the user’s needs and call preferences. This will help the CA to set up and facilitate your call more smoothly.  

How to get started?

If you are curious about this new service, contact the CRS provider to find out more information and for help getting started:

California Relay Service (Hamilton Relay): 1-877-632-9095 and ask for the STS Training Line (available 24/7)

How to make a VA STS call?

  • From a regular phone you call the Relay service provider VA STS access numbers (see below) and indicate you would like to make a VA STS call.
  • The CA will call you back via video.
    • This is a one-way video connection, which means the CA can see you, but you cannot see the CA.
  • The CA will ask if you have any special instructions, e.g.,
    • Should the CA re-voice all that is being said or only the parts that are not understood by the person on the other end;
    • Should the CA tell the person you call who is calling them;
    • Should the CA ask for a specific person or department at the number you call?
  • Give the CA the phone number for the person you want to call.
  • The CA places the call and, if needed, explains the VA STS service.
  • After that, you can talk with the person on the other end of the call as long as you wish, and the CA is available to assist as much or as little as is needed.
VA STS Access:

VA STS Features

Hamilton Relay

Hours of Operation


For questions about VA STS, and to sign up for VA STS:

1-877-632-9095 (24/7)

To make a VA STS call:


Provider VA STS

SkypeTM ID

Hamilton.VASTS.01, Hamilton.VASTS.02, etc.

Using SkypeTM Instant Message or Screen Share


For VA STS troubleshooting:


VA STS resources


To download a flyer with basic VA STS information, click here for WORD or PDF versions.

For more information and tips about VA STS, read the VA STS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

To view pdf forms, download the most recent version of Acrobat Reader.

Skype™ is a trade mark of Skype, and the California Public Utilities Commission and the Deaf and Disabled Telecommunications Program are not affiliated, sponsored, authorized or otherwise associated with the Skype group of companies.