~~~ Telephone services that can change deaf lives ~~~

Captioned telephony
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.

* Tina explains online captioned calls

Video Relay
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
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.

Oct 15, 2008 : A parliamentary reception is held in the House of Commons. The BBC reports and so do I.

Oct 2008 : Sprint launch Mobile WebCapTel in the USA and Hamilton launch Mobile WebCaptel on Apple iPhone

Nov 2008 : See Hear reports on the telephony campaign (available here until Nov 19, 2008). Following this programme, Cathy Heffernan at The Guardian has written an article about the TAG campaign.

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.

Jun 2009 : Plum Consulting publish their report on telecommunication services in the UK for deaf people.
Voice telephony services for deaf people – full version (PDF)
Plain English summary

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

One response

12 11 2010
Ian Tennant

Hi Funny Old Life,

Today is the launch of the VRS Today! campaign, calling for equal access to telecoms for the UK’s BSL community. Our website has been updated following today’s launch: . And, you can follow our updates on Twitter (@vrstoday) or Facebook (VrsToday).

As well as creating equal access to telecoms for BSL users, universal Video Relay Services would create a net benefit of up to £1.1billion for the UK economy, according to new economic research.

VRS Today!’s aim is to bring equality for Deaf users of telecoms, and it would be great to have your support!

All the best,

VRS Today! campaign team.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: