A news release from TAG hit my inbox today, calling for better access to telephones for deaf people. This saga is really dragging on, but it wasn’t easy obtaining captions either. Dan offers a possible solution. Read on …..
Government call for improved disabled access for 2012 must include better access to the telephone for deaf people
2 September 2010
Government must take the initiative to modernise telephone relay services for deaf and hard-of-hearing people if its call for companies to improve disabled access in the run up to the 2012 London Olympics is to mean anything to deaf people, says TAG, the deaf electronic communications consortium.
The Government-commissioned report 2012 Legacy for Disabled People: Inclusive and Accessible Business shows that almost one-third of disabled people have difficulty in accessing goods and services they want to use. Because of poor access to the telephone network, the percentage of deaf and hard-of hearing people unable to access goods and services is very much higher. As a result the economy suffers and deaf and hard-of-hearing citizens are marginalised.
Ruth Myers, Chairman of TAG, said: “This Government report reflects what TAG has been saying for a very long time: deaf and hard-of-hearing people are excluded from many social and commercial opportunities because of the antiquated way that they must communicate with the hearing world via the voice telephone. Email and texting communications only meet some needs – access to voice telephony is crucial for many employment, commercial and social purposes.
“TAG is campaigning for new types of relay services, such as captioned telephony, video relay and IP relay services, all of which are already available to deaf people in some other countries. Everyone accepts that the provision of additional types of relay service is the way forward, but the trigger for action has to be a Government commitment to find the necessary funding mechanisms. The costs are not high in comparison to the economic and social benefits which will accrue.
“We call on the Government to act now to ensure that modernised telephone relay services for deaf people will be up and running in 2011, ready for use by deaf people to make their booking arrangements for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
TAG is a consortium of the main UK deaf organisations concerned with electronic communications and is campaigning for improved electronic communications for deaf, deafened, hard-of-hearing, and deafblind people, and sign language users.
Follow TAG on Twitter @DeafTAG
Telecommunications Action Group
Stephen Fleming at Palam Communications
t 01635 299116 (voice)
Dan says this one is a no-brainer to fix – for free.
- Go to i711.com and sign up. You’ll be prompted to be assigned a relay phone number.
- You will enter your address (for expanded 911 service); and then choose an open number in the pool from the pop-up. Write this number down.
- Now, you can make unlimited free outbound relay calls from your web browser.
But Wait, There’s More!
- Now, minimize the i711.com browser window — We’ll come back to it in a few moments.
- Next, in a new browser window, go to AIM.com and get a screen name (skip this step if you already have one). Then, either download the free AIM software, or if you already use another IM service (ICQ, Yahoo Messenger, MSN, Google Chat, etc…), download the free Trillian IM software, which will funnel all of your IM services into one small app on your desktop.
- Install & configure your AIM or Trillian software to automatically launch on startup, and also to autoconnect on launch.
- Go back to the i711.com window and enter your AIM screen name. You can now close that window.
- Click back on AIM or Trillian and add i711relay to your buddy list. Send an IM with “Hello” in it and you’ll get an autoreply with a couple lines of text.
You now have two additional ways to handle calls:
- You can place a call via AIM by sending an IM with the phone number in it.
- You can now also receive voice calls on the free number you received when you signed up a few minutes ago.
Now, you can give out that number to hearing friends, family, & businesses as your voice number. When someone dials this number, they will get a relay operator who will send you an IM, and initiate the call.
But Wait, There’s Still More!
Let’s say that the only internet access you have is on a mobile (Blackberry, Treo, or iPhone) via a $35/month data-only plan for the hearing impaired. Simply load the AIM or Trillian software on your mobile, and you can place and receive relay calls, just like on your PC in your home.
Now, let’s say you live in another country and work for an American company: simply enter the US address when you sign up for the i711.com service. You will now have a free phone number in the United States for your hearing business associates (and friends & family) to reach you via relay.
How is this all possible… And for free when one end of the relay call is in America?
Every phone line in the United States is taxed about 50 cents per month to fund relay services for the hearing impaired, allowing free enterprise services (such as i711.com) to thrive in the open market providing services for us. The simple fact is businesses can leverage internet and telephony technology to provide voice relay and turn a profit while doing so.
What a country!
Personally, I would love to see the return of CapTel to the UK. CapTel uses a CapTel phone handset, and WebCapTel uses the internet and any phone including a mobile phone. I was lucky to be able to use both in my job and I found it fantastic – no one realised I was deaf. Unfortunately the company supplying the CapTel service was unable to continue providing it, as it was too expensive to do this without public or government funding. Hence the campaign by TAG to improve telephone relay services in the UK, by either improving Text Relay (formerly Typetalk) or appropriately financing the provision of services such as CapTel and VRS such as SignVideo. You can see SignVideo in action here, provided by Significan’t in London. I found the screen display very clear and could lipread the person.
In the US, you have more than one CapTel provider. You can even get it for Blackberry!
There is also a service called PhoneCaption.