MPS sign Early Day Motion about modernising deaf telecoms
TAG urges deaf people to ask their MPs to sign the motion
Deaf people and those wishing to telephone them are being urged to ask their MPs to sign an Early Day Motion (EDM) calling for the modernisation of deaf telephone services.
Within hours of being tabled by the Rt Hon Malcolm Bruce MP, the EDM had gained significant cross-party support.
Ruth Myers, Chair of TAG, which is campaigning for better telecoms services for deaf people, said: “We urge anyone living in the UK to contact their MP asking them to support the motion. An easy way to contact your MP is through the Write To Me website. “We are delighted with the cross-party support that the EDM has quickly attracted and very appreciative of Malcolm Bruce for tabling it.”
Led by TAG, a consortium of the UK’s main deaf organisations, deaf people are calling for new-style telephone relay services that will enable them to use the phone much more effectively and put them on a more equal footing with hearing people. A series of parliamentary questions asked by supportive MPs has revealed some of the government’s thinking on the issue and an Ofcom report earlier this month highlighted many of the issues that TAG is campaigning about.
The EDM (number 1915) reads:
“That this House believes that deaf and severely hard of hearing people are being excluded from benefiting from modern telecommunications; recognises that improvements and modernisation are needed to the telephone relay services by which they and hearing telephone users communicate; further recognises that the technology required to bring about these improvements is available and is in use in several countries; further believes that wide availability of broadband connections will dramatically enhance the relay service facilities that can be offered; and calls on the Government to use the Digital Britain report as the basis to introduce a package of service developments and funding which will end the exclusion of a million of our fellow citizens.”
TAG is a consortium made up of the British Deaf Association, Deafness Support Network, deafPLUS, Hearing Concern Link, National Association of Deafened People, National Deaf Children’s Society, Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID), and Sense.
Deaf telephone services that can change lives:
Captioned telephony was available in the UK from 2002-2007 on a very limited basis. It offers almost simultaneous text transcription of the voice channel so that people with hearing loss can follow the conversation on their PCs or telephone displays with minimal delay. Captel, the only captioned relay service in the UK, was closed in December 2007 for funding reasons.
Video relay enables sign language users to communicate with anyone on the telephone through a sign language interpreter. The sign language user and interpreter interact via PCs and webcams or videophones. Two services currently operate in the UK: Significan’t’s SignVideo service and a fledgling service in Scotland. In 2007, video relay services run by RNID and the BDA closed because of a lack of funding.
A form of text relay has existed in the UK since the 1980s and as a national service since 1991, but a strict legal regime has inhibited its development. Specifically, the current Text Relay service (formerly called RNID Typetalk) is only directly accessible via traditional analogue phone lines. Text Relay enables deaf people with keyboards and screens to communicate via an operator who speaks or types parts of conversations as required. In its current format, the relay process can be quite slow and can inhibit conversations. Nonetheless it is a hugely valuable service. TAG wants to see developments in text relay which, for example, speed up the communication and allows direct mobile and Internet access.
Stephen Fleming at Palam Communications
t 01635 299116
e sfleming @ palam .co.uk
(Personally, I’ll also be writing, with disgust, to my MP regarding EDM number 1910)