Textphones R Us

19 02 2008

When Teletec closed down at the end of November and the Captel service ceased, I was left with a phone handset that didn’t work. I chose the Geemarc textphone from Typetalk as it is supposed to be very good and was recommended by some friends.

Click here for a demonstration of the Geemarc.

The phone arrived. How exciting! I unwrapped it, read the instructions, inserted the required batteries, connected it to the phone line, switched it on, and phoned a friend. Nothing seemed to happen. I asked a hearing colleague to try for me. No go. We contacted the RNID, Typetalk and our building personnel to try to solve the problem, whatever it was. It turned out there was a bar on the line so they lifted it. The phone still didn’t work.

I sent the phone back to the RNID and a replacement arrived shortly after. I set it up again and tried to make a call. Nothing. How annoying.

Now I’m awaiting further investigation into the phone system set-up. I’ve also discovered Typetalk calls can still be made online, using your computer as a textphone. I tried this some years ago and it kept crashing my computer as the textphone modem and my computer modem worked at different speeds.

If you’re interested (and like taking risks!),

Click THIS LINK for the software and the instructions are here >>>
Using your computer as a textphone

I’ve been without a phone for 3 months now, which is a tad inconvenient, and investigations are ongoing. I am now wondering… for all the good the Geemarc is doing me, will Access to Work approve this Winnie-the-Pooh phone I’ve had my eye on? Check it out, it’s even got flashing lights – just what Access to Work recommended the last time I asked them for a textphone! And at £14.99 it doesn’t even blow their budget 😛

Captel phones

6 01 2008

I spoke to the CEO of Hearing Concern about captioned telephony and he tells me that due to the closure of Teletec (the company that supplied Captel phones and the Captel captioning service) deaf people are now losing their jobs across the UK because they can’t use Typetalk, they need Captel as it’s more user-friendly and faster.

For who? For hearing people, of course. This makes me SO angry.

When are hearing people going to accept that deaf people need to communicate by phone as well?

When are hearing people going to meet us halfway and see the importance of an appropriate and modern captioned telephony system?

When are hearing people going to move away from the medical model of disability to the social model?

When are hearing people going to accept that empowerment requires an investment of funds?

When are hearing people going to see us as equals??????

Captioned telephony bites the dust

30 11 2007

I received this letter today.

November 30, 2007

To: Captioning Services Customers

From: Christopher Jones, Managing Director

Dear Customer,

For over seventeen years, Teletec has brought the cutting edge in text communication technologies to people with hearing loss in the UK. Over the past six years, Teletec has introduced exciting new captioning technologies that have the power to revolutionize the way deaf and hard of hearing people communicate over the telephone and communication support for 0ne-to-one, group meetings, seminars and lectures. These technologies offer the promise of far more functional equivalent access to the telephone, the lecture theatre, GPs, and all of the communications that are so important in today’s world.

However, with the advent of the Internet, SMS, e-mail, and wireless text devices of every sort, the traditional text-telephone is no longer the primary means of communication for the deaf community. The main financial support for Teletec has always been the sale of text phones and, unfortunately, the sales of text phones have declined precipitously over recent years. Without the support of the text phone sales and due to the lack of universally available funding mechanisms for captioning services, maintaining the Teletec office is no longer fiscally possible.

Even worse, we have just learned today that the organisation that was to continue the captioning services from 1 December onwards has told us that they are suddenly unable to do so. This was a great shock and disappointment to us. I apologise for the terribly short notice but we were quite convinced that the captioning services would be sustained without a break. It is with great regret that I must inform you that the captioning services including Instant/Personal Captioning service, Captel, and Web-Captel service will not be available as of the close of business today, November 30, 2007. We are earnestly and vigorously pursuing alternatives but there will have to be a break until we can find another captioning services provider. Please continue to check the web site http://www.webcaptel.co.uk for updates.

Without a universal funding method for these kinds of services, small companies will continue to have overwhelming economic challenges in attempting to offer them. Ours is not the first nor the only alternative relay service company to have to shut its doors this year. Already three other (BDA, CSD, and RNID) small organizations started to offer alternative relay services as Video Relay Service for sign language users in the UK and have had to close up due to the lack of a reliable central funding mechanism.

With regards to a 24 hour 365 day a year CapTel Relay Service at no extra cost to the user other than the cost of a standard telephone call, if services like Captel, WebCaptel and IC/PC are to survive and be available long term, they need the help of everyone who is impacted by their loss. There are advocates who are already engaged in working with OFCOM and other official government channels including the European Commission to try and get a universal fund established to support alternative relay services like Captel and WebCaptel. To ensure that these services will always be available, please contact Damian Barry, CEO, Hearing Concern damian.barry@hearingconcern.org.uk , and give him your support. He and Hearing Concern need your help to make certain that this kind of service shut down never happens again and that these useful, more functionally equivalent alternative relay services are available to all who need and depend upon them.

Thank you for your patronage. It has been a pleasure and a great privilege to have been able to serve you.

Christopher Jones
Managing Director, Teletec International Ltd.

You may contact me at:

I am stunned for the second time today. Now I can’t use my phone at work! The captioning service has been pulled and now I have a phone on my desk which has the technology to give me captions for my phone calls, but I can’t get captions. Oh lovely.

What is Captel? This is a captioned telephony service which is ideal for people with a hearing loss. Captel works like any other telephone with one important addition: it displays every word the caller says throughout the conversation on a phone or computer screen. This was a fantastic service and it enabled me to be as professional as my hearing colleagues, as callers would not realise I am deaf and would afford me the same respect as to a hearing colleague. Phoning hearing people is a completely different experience with Typetalk

– Hello, this is RNID Typetalk, have you used our service before?

– No and I don’t want double glazing (hangs up)

Hmmm yes, how professional. I can just see myself trying to liaise with Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Barclays etc and be taken seriously when they get the Typetalk drill!

In the USA, Captel (not WebCaptel) is a 24 hour a day / 365 days a year service which is free to users, subsidised by a central telephony fund which is funded by all phone bill payers contributing a very small percentage of their phone bill to this fund. I fail to see why Ofcom won’t agree to a similar system in the UK and why we can’t have a captioned telephony service when I pay £1 a minute for the privilege of being deaf!

# money, money, money….. something funny….. is going on #

31 01 2007

I went to the BBC studios today to do a spot of filming about banking facilities for deaf people. Watch it on See Hear on 17 February. And start getting mad.

Who likes going to the bank? Hands up

Who doesn’t like going to the bank because a) you’re deaf and b) they play loud music to drown out conversations being held in an open plan area with hard surfaces so hearing people can’t hear each other and deaf people can’t hear at all and c) they act as if you have leprosy when you start using sign language? Hands up (9.5 million in the UK)

Who likes telebanking? Hands up

Who doesn’t like telebanking because you’re deaf and can’t use a telephone, so use a) Captel – the bank hangs up before you can say Oi I’m Still On The Line Don’t Hang Up! b) Typetalk – No Sorry We Can’t Talk to You As There is a Third Party on The Line Even Though Typetalk Operators Sign The Official Secrets Act c) Minicom – there’s just no point. You get an answermachine and they don’t even have the courtesy to call you back. Then they say yes their staff are trained to use a minicom. But they didn’t have anyone available at the time. And if they are honest, they will admit that no one knew how to use it therefore they didn’t pick up the call. Hands up (9.5 million people in the UK)

Isn’t this a piss-take? Your money is sitting in a bank and you can’t get access to your account because your ears don’t work that well. Huh? Run that one by me again? Which planet am I on?

Guys, get your act together. Fast.