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Resources for Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals in TTS

Tools, services, points of contact, and tips for navigating the resources available to individuals and teams.

Services provided by GSA

Once GSA has established that a person is Deaf and/or is Hard of Hearing (HoH), they should not have to provide additional medical documentation for assistive technologies or services related to that disability—only any other reasonable accommodations that they might need. If you receive a request for medical documentation, consult GSA’s Office of Civil Rights to determine whether that request is appropriate.

Federal Relay Services (FedRelay)

In order to provide accessible telecommunications services for Deaf/HoH and speech-disabled employees, GSA has a contract with FedRelay (with a very high contract ceiling) for these shared services. These services are not free, they are billed to a task order (a request for services from within an established contract) that GSA pays for and should only be used when needed to accommodate the individual. There is no cost to program offices (like 18F, OPP, PIF, etc.) for using these services, and FedRelay services do not require medical documentation.

The general public who are Deaf/HoH or those having speech disabilities can also use this service to conduct business with federal agencies.

FedRelay offers six services in English and Spanish, which are described in detail on GSA’s FedRelay page:

Assistive technology

Individuals can get access to other assistive technology resources through the Department of Defense’s Computer Accommodation Program (CAP). GSA’s Equal Employment Opportunity program in the Office of Civil Rights can help get access to these tools.

Accessing remote services

To access remote interpreting or captioning services:

  1. Find the service you want to use on the FedRelay site
  2. Follow the instructions specific to that service
  3. When prompted for a Federal Agency Bureau (AB) Code, they are listed in numerical order. GSA is number 4700
  4. Provide the interpreter or service with TTS’s Glossary of terms and list of tools we reference frequently

Video relay services (VRS)

Dependencies for video relay

In order to use video relay services in combination with video meeting tools like Google Meet or Zoom, the Deaf/HoH individual will need to install GSA-approved software called Z5 app that connects them by video to a sign language interpreter. To get this software:

  1. The individual’s Supervisor should submit a software request on behalf of the individual using Service Now. Individuals can also submit their own request, but it will then immediately get routed to their supervisor for approval.
    1. Pending the individual’s specific communication needs, in the software request Comments field, note that GSA IT should contact the individual for setup instructions by email, and not by phone.
  2. Install the VRS software app. GSA IT will contact the individual for setup and installation.
    1. Download Z5 app for mobile and/or desktop, which is GSA-approved. If Z5 cannot be downloaded or installed, contact your supervisor/manager and GSA IT to make it available in GSA Self Service application
    2. Create an account at Z5’s Registration page and follow their instructions.
    3. After creating an account, you may need to wait for few days for the account to be activated. Also, a Z5 enterprise account manager may reach out to you to provide support, answer questions and verify contact info.

Connect to a meeting with video relay

For a Google Hangouts/Meet meeting:
  1. Dial (877) 709-5797 from your videophone (the Z5 app). Press option 1 for English or option 2 for Spanish
  2. Connect to a video interpreter and provide the name of your Federal agency (In this case, “GSA”) or Agency Bureau (AB) code (GSA’s AB code is 4700)
  3. Provide the phone number you want to call to the interpreter and the PIN, which both are listed under “Join by phone” on your Google Calendar invite
  4. Begin your conversation
For a Zoom meeting:
  1. Dial (877) 709-5797 from your videophone (the Z5 app). Press option 1 for English or option 2 for Spanish
  2. Connect to a video interpreter and provide the name of your Federal agency (in this case, “GSA”) or Agency Bureau code (in this case, “4700”)
  3. Provide the phone number you want to call to the interpreter, which is listed under “Dial [by your location]” on your Google Calendar invite. Make sure that every Calendar invite also includes the dial-in number — a Zoom URL itself will not allow an interpreter to join in the meeting
  4. Begin your conversation

Video relay tips

Relay conference captioning (RCC)

Relay conference captioning is real-time captioning for meetings over the phone or internet, including web conferencing, by creating text in a computer window. This is the only service that needs to be scheduled in advance: please book at least 12 hours ahead for English, and 48 hours ahead for Spanish.

Schedule a meeting with Relay Conference Captioning

Other software

If an individual has used other software that isn’t included in the FedRelay package, follow the instructions on the Software page to check whether it is already approved by GSA, and how to request it.

Accessing in-person services

There are times when a Deaf/HoH individual may desire or find it more convenient to have a live interpreter than to manipulate the FedRelay tools, such as in-person events like workshops or group meetings.

Choose a service provider that the individual has previously had a good experience with if you can. GSA has not allocated centralized funds to support costs associated with accommodating employees outside of FedRelay, which leaves some flexibility and choice up to the individual. Find organizations or interpreters the individual has worked with before that have knowledge of their specialized technical vocabulary.

Each program office is responsible for the cost of these services.

Planning for on-site interpreting services

Booking and purchasing:

  1. Identify the service provider and their rates
  2. The individual or their supervisor should email their Director for approval of the expense. For 18F, this is likely your Chapter Director. For OPP, this is likely your Portfolio Lead. Include:
    1. the date of services
    2. an estimated ceiling for number of hours needed
    3. an estimated ceiling for the cost of services
  3. Export the approved email as a PDF
  4. Submit a micropurchase request

Best practices for working with an on-site interpreter(s):

Planning for accessible events

GSA maintains a very useful InSite page on planning for accessible events to help employees prepare their everyday activities to be more inclusive and be in conformance with Section 508 requirements for digital media. It’s worth VPNing in for, and includes guidance on:

Who to contact

GSA Human Resources (HR)

GSA HR is helpful from an overall GSA policy standpoint, and can help point you to specific individuals for the most up-to-date resources. Ask them for points of contact for Reasonable Accommodation Coordinators in each region, who can help organize on-site resources for their area.


Octavia Johnson

Office of Civil Rights

GSA prohibits discrimination in the workplace and the Office of Civil Rights upholds the agency’s commitment to becoming a model Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) employer.

Contact the Office of Civil Rights to:

Equal Employment Opportunity Program

Work with this program within the Office of Civil Rights to get assistive technology solutions through the Department of Defense’s Computer Accommodation Program


Alexander Koudry

Terms to know


Any questions? Find the Accessibility Guild and the Diversity Guild on Slack: #g-accessibility, #g-diversity