Phone calls for deaf people are a step closer

23 04 2009

Ofcom are carrying out a comprehensive review of telecommunications services for deaf people. Hopefully this will pave the way for opening up possibilities of implementing new and more efficient and suitable telephone systems that will work with the existing digital networks in the UK. I went to a consultation meeting with Ofcom, along with two other deaf people. The three of us had used captioned telephony and Typetalk, and explained the pros and cons of each service.

The Guardian reports upon the TAG campaign to have a modern telephone service for deaf people in the UK, see HERE for the full article.

It’s very frustrating when you can’t hear on the phone and your option is to get an analogue line installed so that a minicom or Typetalk can function, or use an interpreter to relay your call via an ordinary telephone. I will be be so pleased to be able to, without a second thought, pick up the phone and transfer an incoming call to a colleague, or make a phone call to a number that is likely to have a number of automated options to choose from such as my bank, or make a call without worrying whether the hearing person at the other end will hang up on me or not.

Changing track slightly, a new possibility has emerged. A new phone was launched last week by Polycom, the VWX 1500 business media phone. This phone is interesting as it has IP capabilities, it is able to simultaneously stream high quality audio and video – a potential winner for deaf people. It has a flashing light on the top right corner of the phone and it is possible to save conversations for later recall.

Polycom have a roadshow and will be in London on 14 and 15 May.

They got it right first time

4 03 2009


Access isn’t just about having the specialist equipment. It’s also about attitudes. I believe the two go together hand in hand to make a service fully accessible.

I had forgotten my online banking password. Today I phoned my bank via Typetalk and on my first call I got through and they took my call, went through the identification process, dealt with my query, absolutely no problem. Later that day, I logged into my bank account online and got it wrong again, so had to phone the bank to reset my password again. This time, the Typetalk operator kept telling me she couldn’t hear what I was saying as the bank’s computer system kept telling her the available options in her ear. I kept repeating, getting louder each time, which option I wanted and she kept saying she couldn’t hear me. In the end, the Typetalk operator said the bank had hung up on me as I was taking too long to choose an option. Then she explained to me, as if I hadn’t quite understood in the first place, that the bank had been giving the options in her ear and that she couldn’t hear what I was saying as she was listening to them. I said, so what am I supposed to do? Her reply? “I don’t know”.


After a few deep breaths, I picked up the phone and tried again. Typetalk luckily (!) put me through this time. However, now it was the bank that had the problem. They said they couldn’t take a call through Typetalk and would send the relevant documents through the post. What?! I explained that Typetalk operators are bound by the Official Secrets Act and this is a confidential call. I explained, in my Don’t Mess With Me Voice, that I wanted equal access and my choice was to have my query dealt with in the same way as hearing people, i.e. I wanted to deal with this over the phone. In the end she relented and we got it sorted, but not after the d*mn Typetalk operator told me she had explained to the bank what was happening, i.e. she had taken over ‘my’ private conversation and had her own on the side with my bank! I thought Typetalk was meant to be simply a relay service, not one where the operator was butting in all the time. Then to cap it all, the bank said I could call them back on their minicom number. I said, due to the problems with Typetalk, there was no way I was going to chance calling them on a minicom number as I know from experience that it hardly ever gets answered, and when it does, they panic and say no-one knows how to use it therefore they can’t take the call. All that in addition to the Typetalk operator butting in. No thanks.

I’m very lucky that I don’t really need to use a phone at work, we have an email culture so it works very well for me. I see things haven’t changed much in the last few years. Captioned telephony can’t come back to the UK soon enough.