~~~ Telephone services that can change deaf lives ~~~
Captioned telephony was available in the UK from 2002-2007 on a very limited basis. With two communication channels, speech recognition software to convert the relay operator’s voice into text, deaf people can read the conversations on their PCs or telephone displays with minimal delay. CapTel and WebCapTel, the only captioned relay service in the UK, was closed in December 2007 for funding reasons.
Video relay enables sign language users to communicate 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. Last year, video relay services run by RNID and the BDA closed.
See SignVideo in action.
Text relay has existed in the UK since the 1980s and as a national service, RNID Typetalk, since 1991, but funding issues have inhibited its development. 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 access via the Internet.
April 2008 : TAG campaign kicks off
April 2008 : Facegroup group is launched at Campaign: deaf people want greater access to modern phone technology
April 2008 : TAG is now moving into Stage 2 of the Campaign and arranging meetings with MPs and calling others to discuss how progress towards modernised deaf telecoms can be made.
Feb 2009 : I met with consultants Plum Consulting who conducted research for Ofcom into the gaps in currently available telecommunication services for those with hearing impairments. The Guardian reports on progress.
Jul 2009 : EDM (number 1915) tabled by MP Malcolm Bruce
Aug 2010 : Ofcom disabilities mystery shopping report
Oct 2010 : TAG takes deaf telephone relay services campaign online
Jun 2012 : TAG response to Ofcom consultation on review of telephone relay services
Oct 2012 : Using a Mac with Text Relay
Oct 2012 : OFCOM Review of relay services – Decision on the introduction of Next Generation Text Relay (NGTR)
May 2013 : BT readies user-friendly text relay for 2014