Text relay services: new research project

31 08 2010

PhotobucketOfcom are asking people to have their say by taking part in their new research project about the future of text relay and other services for people who are deaf, hard of hearing or with speech difficulties.

A major research project is about to start on the subject of text relay services. The review will consider how people who are deaf, hard of hearing  or have speech difficulties currently use communications services and what they need to be able to communicate effectively with other people.

The research is being carried out by Opinion Leader, an independent research company on behalf of Ofcom, the independent body that regulates the communications industry.

They are looking for the following people to help  with this research:

  • People who currently use text relay services
  • Non-users of text relay services who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech difficulties
  • People who have used other types of relay services

There are a number of different ways that you can take part in the research. These include:

  • Face-to-face interviews or small group discussions with communications support as required
  • Live, online group discussions
  • Questionnaire completed by text relay
  • Questionnaire completed online
  • Pen and paper questionnaire that you can send back in a prepaid envelope

People taking part in the face to face or online discussions will receive a payment of £35 as the interviews will take up to 1.5 hours . There is limited space, but all applicants will be contacted by return email.  They will do their very best to make sure you can take part in the manner of your preference.

If you are interested in taking part, you can visit the registration page or write to Jessica Irwin-Brown, Opinion Leader Relay Services Research Team, FREEPOST RSAB-RHBG-YKSZ, United Kingdom.

There are full details of the research on the registration web page, but if you need any more information, email  relayservices@opinionleader.co.uk with your name, telephone number and postal address and they will contact you directly.

Information in BSL format

I’m pretty disgusted.

Nothing has changed – for years. See this BBC news article on Captel – dated 2004! It says,

The cost of new technology does mean much of it is unavailable to most deaf people. Teletec are hoping that the telecoms regulator Ofcom will soon recognise the lack of funding and make communication in homes, not just workplaces, easier for the hard of hearing.

I used Captel for 3 years and it was fantastic – 99% of people had no idea I was deaf. Captel is free 24/7/365 in the USA. It’s available in Canada and Sweden. Our government and Ofcom STILL can’t see that deaf people need a modern telephony service. Our MPs say ‘Oh, deaf people have got Text Relay, so what’s the problem?’ (Text Relay was formerly known as Typetalk)

One of the main problems is that using Text Relay means it is very difficult to connect to an automated phone system, therefore it doesn’t work with most modern telephony services. It’s too slow. Phone the bank? I’d need half an hour just to get through! I would also need to get hold of a real person who can speak English – not one of those Indian call centres or an automated switchboard as they can’t cope with a text relay call. Text Relay’s response is;

Direct text solution for contacting organisations

14 Apr 2010

Dealing with a call centre via a text relay can sometimes be a frustrating experience.  Recognising this a number of companies are now providing a direct text alternative.

At Text Relay we’ve compiled a list of organisations and their textphone numbers to help people who use text.  You can download the list from our downloads page.

This isn’t good enough. This only works for a deaf person like me when I have access to a textphone. I don’t use a textphone, I use a telephone (Geemarc Screenphone) because I can speak and I don’t have all day to type out my replies. Plus, a lot of organisations just let their minicoms ring and ring.

I want the same independence as a hearing person to make a phone call! It seems, the only way to do this is to get a cochlear implant and learn how to hear. This is not an option that’s available or desirable to all deaf or hard of hearing people.

The Telecommunications Action Group have been running a campaign to get an improved text relay service in the UK. The BBC reported on the campaign when TAG called on the government for funding in 2008. I took part in a research project for Plum Consulting and Ofcom in June 2009.

So why have Ofcom commissioned yet ANOTHER research project on text relay services??? Why can’t they see that we NEED a proper phone service that meets everyone’s needs?? What’s so difficult about that? Other countries can do it. Why can’t we?

Do we need to take away hearing people’s access to phones for them to sit up and listen, understand, and do something about it??

Click on the link for information on the TAG telecoms campaign and how YOU can help. It’s up to us to make the difference!

Funnyoldlife’s tracking of TAG’s telephone campaign.

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36 responses

1 09 2010
Dan Schwartz, Editor, The Hearing Blog

Here’s how we do it in America:
http://TinyURL.com/Relay4Free

Call me anytime at 856-266-9969

1 09 2010
Funnyoldlife

Thanks Dan! But how does it work for UK? They require a US address, zip code and phone number. I live in UK 🙂

1 09 2010
Paul

10 years ago I had a 2-way pager which nowadays would be a cell w/texting. Thought it was the cats meow. Couldn’t believe the Deaf were still using ttys (tdd) which even back then were antiquated. Now we’ve got texting, email, v-phone and many are still using ttys. CapTel is great especially when the captioning isn’t delayed by much. Working your way thru a call menu is still a chore. Do they really need a new study? Maybe all the “researchers” really need to do is plug up their ears for a couple of days and try using the phone or going to a restaurant. Bet they could think of all kinds of ways to improve communications technology.

1 09 2010
Funnyoldlife

I’m right there with you, Paul. They’ll never understand until they experience it for themselves.

1 09 2010
Andy

Are TAG still going? I haven’t heard a word about them and their site has not been updated since 2009.

1 09 2010
Funnyoldlife

Hi Andy, they are still going. Quiet, but still there.

1 09 2010
Liz

I think everyone needs to be deaf for a day at least, but a week at most. I know it sounds horrible. But if people were deaf for a week, then they’d realise. In the meantime, they would not cope, because it hit them just like that. But it would be the only way for people to really realise, and raise deaf awareness big time.

1 09 2010
MM

text relay died with SMS text on mobiles. I really cannot see the point of deaf relay systems except for those who can sign and do nothing else which is reputed to be LESS than 2% of deaf people. The Brit systems are lengthy, and time consuming and miss more than hit anything, it is expensive too, why not just text or e-mail ? Type talk failed 8 YEARS ago to be meaningful, minicoms (TTY) are dead. If there is ANY future in relay systems it can only be for sign to sign. When did YOU Last use a Minicom ? They are museum pieces.

2 09 2010
Funnyoldlife

Oh I don’t touch minicoms.

I (and 9 million other deaf people) do need a way of phoning places like the bank etc. They won’t accept email or SMS 😦

2 09 2010
MM

My bank would never take text relay either, it still won’t. If I need anything I have to go there. As it’s only 10 minutes away it’s not worth hassling them for access for the rare times I need to contact them. The issue is you cannot trust text contacts on the phone at all, it could be anyone and could be a hacker the banks said. E-mails ditto they aren’t safe online. Even when I go to the bank I have to have extensive proof of who I am, despite me knowing the counter clerk for years and she writes things down for me, I still have to prove my ID !

2 09 2010
Funnyoldlife

That’s interesting. Can you vote with your feet? Which bank is this?

The bank I dealt with (for work) was Natwest and I called them on a regular basis, although this was MUCH easier with CapTel – they never even realised I was deaf. With Text Relay, it was very very tricky – after a good 20 minutes of just trying to get through, usually an argument ensued with me explaining the legal standpoint and that operators do sign the Official Secrets Act, and perhaps even a hearing colleague speaking to them on my behalf before allowing me to continue the call. I had to make quite a few trips to their head office with letters from my CEO saying who I was and why I was phoning. Not good for my morale!

There is just a huge gap between ‘a minicom number is provided for deaf people so therefore we are accessible’ and a service that actually works for us. Most annoyingly, no one apart from the users seem to understand the need to sort this out. As long as the service works for THEM, generally they’re not particularly bothered. They seem to think we have all day to go in and see them. Ehhh no… we’ve got jobs and work just like hearing people!

Tip from Fintan: Bring some loud/screaming kids to the bank with you and they can’t deal with you quick enough. Tee hee.

2 09 2010
Liz

I have to disagree with SMS dying. I imagine it’s because you don’t use it MM, and think it’s a waste of time. I still text from my mobile, and I know of many deaf and hearing that still text today.

2 09 2010
Funnyoldlife

MM isn’t saying SMS is dying, it’s text relay that has one foot in the grave.

2 09 2010
Andy

After a trip to Bristol recently I got a letter from Barclays to say that there might be a problem with my card. They suspended it except for if I attended my bank in person and asked me TO PHONE them! Agh!
So I rang the number, ploughed through the automated system until (after 20 or so mins) I reached a human. Who refused to take the call via Typetalk. So I calmly (with boiling blood and pounding heart) pointed out that this amounted to discrimination under the DDA and would they kindly call a supervisor. I hit them with the DDA at once so that they would not hang up!

One nice thing about using a computer for Typetalk is I can make a cup of coffee with one eye on the screen. So one cup of coffee later the bank person came back and said “That’s OK I confirm that I can now take your call”. So obviously they had rushed off and looked it up!

I also had this problem with my insurance company when they accidentally deducted 2 years premiums instead of one. This was More Than in 2005.
I was online for one hour and forty minutes, the operators changed twice and I consumed two cups of coffee. Part of the problem was caused by getting the buggers to talk to me in the first place. I had to redial a couple of times.

But I think the grand daddy of all nastiness was the CSA. These idiots assessed me for care of my son when in fact he was living with me! I rang them up to point out the error and they refused point blank to have anything to do with me via Typetalk. So I got the car out and turned up in their office 40 minutes later, in no mood to take prisoners.
Eventually I got to speak to someone about it and I had to sign a document authorising them to deal with me through a third party. Duh!
Anyway I found that the best way to deal with the CSA was to ignore them!

But in an emergency Typetalk has got me out of trouble a number of times. I don’t think it matters how often it is used, it’s the importance of the work it does.
I can speak to the doctor if I don’t feel well. I can ring the hospital for advice. My bank will now take Typetalk calls and so I can sort out cock-ups without having to get the car out and so on.
It’s the value of those calls to me that is the advantage of having TTY available.

2 09 2010
Funnyoldlife

I agree Andy, text relay is better than nothing. It just doesn’t always work, and it never works when I need to make a phone call quickly. I can easily spend an hour making a call that would take a hearing person 10 minutes. In a busy working life where I am expected to offer a professional and efficient service, text relay sidelines this, and it’s just not workable.

2 09 2010
Andy

Between you and me that’s exactly the reason why I no longer practise as a professional photographer. My whole problem revolved around not being able to use the phone for 101 jobs every day. Typetalk /text relay is FAR too klunky to be professional. I’m competing with people who can just pick up the phone and persuade clients to give them the work. I left the profession during the last recession because I just couldn’t make enough money. Went off to drive a truck.

Certainly I could have hired someone, for a few years my wife helped me out as a PA but obviously she expected to get paid in the end. So I would have to pay a wage to someone to do a job that a hearing person can do without help.

That means I would have to do more business to pay for it. In an era when photography is in decline as a profession it weighs me down me to begin with. I would have to invest a lot of cash to get it going.

If I had Captel it sounds as if I would have been able to manage pretty much independently , from what you’ve said.

2 09 2010
Liz

Yes I just found out, after discussing this elsewhere. It’s how it came across to me. But someone else corrected me on that.

So I have come back to this post now, to send my apologies to MM. Sorry MM.

2 09 2010
Liz

I have not used Typetalk yet myself. But it’s something I’m considering for things like, if I had to phone the doctors or work. But I do find it daunting because of the problems people face as mentioned above. 🙂

2 09 2010
Funnyoldlife

It’s useful and helps you to be more independent – it just takes a lot more time to make a call and needs lots of patience! I would give it try Liz, and let us know what you think. I think Social Services give them out free (not sure about this though).

2 09 2010
Liz

I was thinking if I had type talk. I would be definitly be using the one through the pc. Talk by text Home Edition, as I do not want a phone line.

I know already, it would not get used much, as my friends and some family would not talk to me this way. So as it would be me using it. I’d prefer that way. I would still find it daunting, but hopefully less daunting this way, after my first call.

Do you know if someone is able to support you, in showing you with that first call? Because I know this is something SS don’t do where I live.

2 09 2010
Funnyoldlife

I tried the PC version. Once. Once was enough. It ballsed up my computer. I think that was because it needed a different modem rate to use text relay, but then my computer wouldn’t work properly.

You get instructions sent with the phone and it’s very straightforward to use. You can always ask at your local Deaf club if there is anyone who can show you how to make a call. Text Relay also have a website with instructions at Text Relay (they used to be called Typetalk).

2 09 2010
Andy

I was one of the beta testers for the Talk By Text software. It’s rather unreliable I’m afraid because my line is noisy and I suffer frequent disconnections. It works by contacting the Text Relay operator across the Internet. The TR op then makes the call as usual.

Text Relay is also easy to do on a PC so long as it has a modem.
You plug this into the phone socket. Setting up is largely automatic using Windows Hyperterminal.
You can get a personalised version of Hyperterminal from Hilgraeve that will receive calls as well as send.
I was one of the first people to do this, I remember explaining to the Typetalk Technical bods how I did it.

2 09 2010
Liz

As for the phones. Yes in my area, if I was to have a phone line, I would get the Screen Phone free from SS. 🙂

2 09 2010
Funnyoldlife

I’ve got a screen phone (Geemarc) and that uses Text Relay. Same old problems … I need lots of cups of coffee making these calls!

2 09 2010
Liz

Thank you 🙂

2 09 2010
Funnyoldlife

*raises cup of strong coffee to Liz*

2 09 2010
Ste (sirgarg)

I don’t know what the problem is with all this negativity, if a system works for you then carry on using it, and do this until technology decides its dated then move on to something else.
Shop around get what you think you need/like and go from there, in the meantime providers and the such, want to know how the services are being used and whether its any good…in the long term, it all ends up in a museum one day and we all say ” Hey remember, typetalk..look! he doesn’t know what we are on about” lol

2 09 2010
Funnyoldlife

That’s the problem Ste. It doesn’t work for me and lots of others because it IS outdated. There’s nothing else to replace it except CapTel, which our lovely government won’t support.

2 09 2010
Legsmaniac

I and many friends I know use Text Relay and have no problems with it. Certainly works for me. It’s not without it’s faults but it’s better than nothing at the present time and I certainly wouldn’t be without it now. I’ve been using it since it started as Typetalk.

2 09 2010
deaflinguist

*donka donka donka donk* bangs head on desk in frustration at the memory of Typetalk/TextRelay calls. *donka donka donka donkity donk* *desists in case she dislodges new CI*

I have so many stories about the sheer awfulness of Typetalk and TextRelay, not least you have absolutely no way of knowing that the person has actually conveyed accurately what you have said to the person you are contacting. It’s a pain when you are talking professionally and you and the other person – if you were talking in person or were hearing people on the phone – would be on the same wavelength, but a third party just messes it up big time. Especially if their grasp of English isn’t that good (through poor education).

For example, I once used the word “tome”. The relay operator said “too-me”, I was told by the recipient. Hello?!

Banks *runs away before the donkity-donk starts again*

However, I treasure the memory of being asked out on a date via Typetalk. That took guts. Reader, I married him.

2 09 2010
Funnyoldlife

Wow. That DID take guts!

I have a little awkward moment of my own. I typed to my boyfriend ‘I love you’ and unfortunately the Typetalk operator was male. … boyfriend said it was surreal to have a man say that to him!

2 09 2010
Andy

I wonder if anyone actually dares to say anything really fruity?
I’ll leave it to the imagination what that might be between a loving couple. Could the operator refuse to take the call?

2 09 2010
Funnyoldlife

My brother asked the same question. He decided to swear at me on the phone. I got it, word for word. Haha.

2 09 2010
MM

The amount of calls TT made was about one per RNID member (Currently about 35k), compare that with 11 MILLION texts… There was a deaf man on see hear did 1,200 texts a month… The RNID no longer has an interest in TT it is BT’s. Deaf people ask relatives to make the calls even HoH HERE do, simples, albeit not at all helpful in producing demand which is what is killing off relay systems, and indeed much access for the deaf. 300 deaf with one interpreter ? we don’t read many complaints about that…. these deaf and long term HoH developed alternatives that work (Mostly relatives !), so are not willing to change now. If the question is about the future of text relay systems, I won’t be putting any money on them..

2 09 2010
deaflinguist

At least you got the good old Anglo-Saxon word for word. I always used to suspect it was edited a little bit, a bit like subtitles or interpreters, and can’t really think of the last time I actually used TextRelay. Fortunately my hospital has an e-mail address for contact, bless them.

For my job SMS and e-mail are the norm, so I am not at all unusual or stand out because I am deaf. Skype – either chat or webcam – is brilliant for friends and family. It’s the financial calls where it gets Kafkaesque: the Text Relay rigmarole or the forgotten minicom proudly advertised on every letter which is gathering dust because the one person who can use it is on maternity leave or has to be fetched from five floors up and by the time they come on line you have given up (as really, you have better things to do, like watching paint dry) but they haven’t switched the damn thing off, so when you try again the minicom is engaged permanently, and you have no means of getting through to them to tell them that they really need to put the minicom back on the hook.

I have actually phoned institutions through TextRelay to tell them what’s happened and they say, “You do know you can ring us direct on the minicom?”

Letter from bank today regarding a complaint I had. They had initially phoned me at home – while I was at work. Bear answered and explained that, no, I didn’t really do phone calls. So they wrote to me. They upheld my complaint, which was about lack of access to information in a format suitable for my needs, and then proceeded to invite me to respond by telephoning them.

*head hurts from so much banging against wall*

3 09 2010
MM

TT rarely worked at all, most of the deaf and near all of the systems had never heard of it and what did it for me was the constant hanging up when TT tried to get through, it was a waste of time,and the RNID expected ME to plug the system there is no modus at all with deaf systems it’s piecemeal. It still is.

Most considering putting a new system on the market would do a test run, and an ad campaign to test the water and see if deaf preferred it and made the system aware of it. That wasn’t done, the deaf in reality NEVER took to tyeptalk, the HI did. The deaf won’t use talk by text either, and it is 8-1 on they won’t use signing relay systems either except perhaps online to each other, the sign relay is failing at NHS/GP areas and other areas that have installed vizi phones.

I don’t think deaf DO have issues on the telephone, HI do. Different needs. I blame the deaf for poor demand, not mainstream, we can’t wean them away from relatives doing the job, so they can mess about on social online areas instead and leave the real access work to others. When did you LAST see any campaign emanating from the Deaf area in the UK ?

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