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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.

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.

Services for remote meetings

CART (Captioning)

In order to provide accessible telecommunications services for Deaf/HoH and speech-disabled employees, GSA has a contract with CART (Communication Access Real-time Translation) provider 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 CART 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.

To access captioning services:

  • Send an email at least 12 hours prior to the meeting (2-3 days is preferred) to , external,BISCOORD@BISWORLD.COM with the following information:
    • Requestors Name:
    • Event Title:
    • Event Point of contact:
    • Phone number and pin for conference line:
    • Event date:
    • Start and End time (include timezone):
    • Names of the speakers / panelist / participants that are going to present on the event:
    • Preparation materials (acronyms, agenda, PowerPoint, documents) anything that will help the Writer/Captioner to prepare for the call: i.
    • Optional information to provide: What platform the event will be on and URL of the event.
  • Confirmation information will be emailed to the Requestor’s Name with the captioning URL.

Visit the TTS-only, Live Captioning InSite page for further details.

Integrating with Zoom for Government

To integrate captions from the provided captioner with Zoom:

  • You must be signed in and the meeting host or co-host and in the meeting.
  • Select the three dots button on the captioner’s square and click Assign a participant to type.
  • If this is not visible, head to the bottom toolbar and select Live Transcript (it may be under More… on smaller screens) and then Set up manual captioner and then Assign a participant to type.

Visit the , external,Zoom documentation page on manual captioning for further details.

Attaching captions to Zoom meeting recordings

When recording a meeting, Zoom will record captions in a .vtt file automatically, which captures both the caption text and when to show them on the video.

The caption file can be attached to the video after it is uploaded to sites like Google Drive (commonly used at TTS). See how to , external,add caption tracks to your videos in Google Drive.

ASL interpreters

An American Sign Language interpreter can be provided when two parties in a virtual meeting experience a communication barrier (e.g. Google Meet or Zoom).

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 unless an event is cancelled. GSA will be billed for events that are not cancelled within 48 hours of event and reimbursement may be requested by the employee's office.

To request ASL interpreters:

  • Fill out the , external,TTS-only, ASL Service Intake Form at least 72 hours before the event is scheduled.
  • You will be asked to provide information about the reasonable accommodation on file that supports this request.
  • A coordinator will be in touch via email to confirm the details.

Integrating with Zoom for Government

Sign language interpreters are shown in dedicated video channels that are pinned and spotlighted, identifying the specific type of sign language they are interpreting. Participants can then select which sign language video channel they’d like to view, and resize or relocate the video window as needed.

  • You must be signed in and the meeting host or co-host.
  • Before the meeting:
    • Sign language interpretation view must be enabled in the host’s user settings in the Zoom web portal. Click on Settings, the Meeting tab, and look for the In Meeting (Advanced) section.
    • If Zoom for Desktop is running, restart it.
    • Select your scheduled meeting in Zoom for Desktop and click Edit, then Select sign language interpretation (video channels) below.
  • During the meeting:
    • In the bottom toolbar, select Interpretation and select the interpreter.
    • Select the three dots button on the interpreter’s square and click Allow to talk. Alternatively, you can find the interpreter in the Participants panel and click Allow to talk there as well.

Visit the , external,Zoom documentation page on enabling sign language interpretation view for further information.

Video relay services (VRS)

In order to use video relay services in combination with video meeting tools like Google Meet, 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 , external,submit a software request on behalf of the individual. 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 GSA IT to make it available in Self Service.
    2. Create an account at Z5’s , external,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

  • Add (877) 709-5797 to your Z5 contact list for a quick dial
  • Interpreters can facilitate information in both directions. Deaf/HoH individuals using their own voice in conversation (instead of the interpreter voicing for them) should inform the interpreter at the beginning that they’ll be using Voice Carry Over (VCO). Alternatively, they should ask the interpreter to convert the individual’s conversation from sign language to voice.
  • If you are using Voice Carry Over (VCO) and the interpreter is not expected to use their voice, mute the interpreter’s phone line from the Google Meet or Zoom meeting to reduce background noises and microphone echos.
  • Inform an interpreter of how long the meeting will be (e.g. 30 minutes, 1 hour, etc.) before it begins. This helps them determine whether or not to have a partner to switch over during the meeting, preventing cognitive fatigue for an interpreter in a long meeting
  • Inform the meeting host ahead of time that they may see an unrecognizable number dialed in—this is FedRelay.

Other software

If an individual has used other software that isn’t included, 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, 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. 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):

  • It is standard practice to have two interpreters available to prevent them from having cognitive fatigue that would result in poor performance. At best, they would switch every 20-30 minutes and assist each other if they miss something.
  • Share slides, agendas, glossaries, or other materials with interpreters ahead of time.
  • Schedule interpreters to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to the event to allow the individuals and interpreters to meet beforehand, review any specialized vocabulary, and share individual preferences for communication and signing styles.
  • If possible, work with a consistent pool of interpreters so they can be familiar with TTS/GSA work culture and technical signs. This will help avoid emotional labor of having to constantly educate new, different interpreters each time.
  • Keep points of contact for scheduling, coordinating, and payment to a minimum to avoid creating emotional labor for the interpreters.
  • People often use "interpreter" and "translator" interchangeably, and while they're similar, they differ. In general, an interpreter interprets spoken information in real-time, while a translator converts information from written/recorded materials. So when inquiring for an interpreter, don't make the mistake of calling them a translator.
  • Remember that interpreting goes both directions. Interpreters can convert spoken language into sign language and sign language into spoken language based on the group’s needs.

Planning for accessible events

GSA maintains a very useful InSite page on TTS-only, hosting accessible meetings. It includes actions to take before, during, and after your meeting.

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.


James Mulvaney

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:

  • Learn about what opportunities and resources exist outside of this list.
  • Help determine whether a request for medical documentation supporting a temporary or permanent disability is appropriate
  • Report discrimination when an individual is applying for employment at GSA or as a current or former GSA employee
  • File an administrative complaint requesting that existing electronic and information technology (E&IT), such as a GSA branded website or non-accessible document that does not conform to the Section 508 standards, be reviewed and brought into compliance with the provisions of Section 508.

Equal Employment Opportunity Program

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


Alexander Koudry

Terms to know

  • Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART): A service where a captioner converts spoken speech into written text. CART is also better known as real-time or live captioning.
  • Closed captioning (CC): A text version of all types of audio elements is shown on the visual display or screen, including spoken conversation and description of background elements, music, and other sounds. Unlike open captions, closed captioning is optional and activated by the viewer. (See difference, subtitles).
  • Centralized Reasonable Accommodation Fund (CRAF): A centralized funding pool shared across departments to pay for services like interpretation.
  • Hearing person: A Deaf culture term identifying a person with a typical hearing ability.
  • Federal Relay (FedRelay): Provides telecommunications services for federal agencies and tribal governments to conduct official business with individuals who are Deaf and/or Hard of Hearing, or have speech disabilities. All Federal Relay contract services ended on 2/13/22.
  • Interpreter: An interpreter converts spoken information into sign language in real-time. Also, an interpreter converts sign language into verbal speech for a hearing person. (See difference, translator)
  • Open captioning (OC): Similar to closed captions, but with open captions, the latter is always on (encoded into the visual display or screen) and does not need to be activated by the viewer.
  • On-site interpreting: An interpreter is physically present at the location where there is a face-to-face meeting or conversation between hearing and Deaf/HoH people.
  • Subtitles: A text version of only the spoken dialogue appears on the visual display or screen. (See difference, closed captioning)
  • Video Remote Interpreting (VRI): An on-demand sign language interpreting service through webcam, internet connection and a VRI software app.
  • Translator: A translator converts information from written or recorded materials into sign language. (See difference, interpreter)
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