Ofcom Consultation on the Review of Relay Services : Further consultation

13 07 2012

Response from DAART


DAART (Deaf Access to Alternative Relay in Telecommunications) Campaign is a campaigning group of individual consumers who may or may not have any representation through deaf or hard of hearing organisations and would like to add their voice to the campaign for the introduction of alternative relay services in the UK.

DAART has participated in the overall discussions with the UK Council on Deafness (UKCoD) and the Telecommunications Action Group (TAG) to this consultation and we endorse the points raised in their response.

DAART would like to reiterate what the UKCoD / TAG response highlights, there have been 12 consultation or research studies on this important issue since 2004 and yet these processes have not materialised in the implementation of alternative relay services after 8 years.

DAART maintains and said in its last consultation that there are already tried and tested relay systems in operation that could meet the needs of the deaf and hard of hearing users and this technology has been available for the last 12 years. We believe this is a serious omission from Ofcom in this consultation in favour of a proposed NGTR without further information or detail about this. In addition this proposed NGTR is yet to be developed and be tried and tested.

DAART also express concern that this consultation document did not take into account the responses of the ten out of thirteen stakeholders groups who would like to see Captioned Telephone Relay being an alternative real time functional equivalent relay service in the future. The document focuses purely on NGTR as a viable alternative which is disappointing.

DAART is unhappy that we continue to be in a position where Ofcom is still consulting on telephony access. The slow progress on this issue is unacceptable especially when Ofcom had access to a range of user groups providing them with solutions as to how relay services can operate in the future.

Question 1: Do you agree that in light of the additional cost data and further clarification, in light of Ofcom’s assessment of relevant benefits and other considerations, all CPs (BT, fixed and mobile providers) should be required to provide access to an NGTR service?

DAART’s position on this has not changed since the last consultation; we believe that the obligation to provide or, more accurately, to ensure functional equivalent access should be a responsibility of all communication providers (CPs).

DAART has maintained that a funding mechanism is needed to ensure that a range of relay services become available that meets the needs of a range of deaf, hard of hearing and DeafBlind users. This will promote competition and choice for users and lead to improvement of quality of service from providers.

DAART was surprised to learn that CP’s believe that NGTR is not needed and deaf and hard of hearing users can use alternative means of communication available such as email, sms or live chat. May we remind them that hearing people also have access to these alternative means of communication AS WELL as have functional equivalent access to the telephone. They have a choice. Deaf and hard of hearing people would also like to have the freedom to make this choice as well and not to have the choice imposed on us as an alternative.

Question 2:  Do you agree that the need to dial a prefix to access a relay service for incoming calls to the hearing and/or speech impaired end user should be removed?

DAART supports what UKCoD and TAG have stated in their response to this question.

DAART would like to use same telephone numbers like everyone else and have no prefixes.

Question 3: Do you agree with the proposed approval criteria and KPIs? If not, please specify your reasons.


The proposed transcription speed of 60 words per minute (wpm) as a KPI should not be the benchmark and this should be raised to a minimum of 125 wpm. This will provide close to functional equivalent access to the telephone. There is already relay service systems developed that can provide a benchmark using a standard script at 125 wpm, 98% accuracy and 8 second delay.. Many relay providers use this system.

DAART believes if the KPI’s was set to a higher benchmark of 125 wpm as a minimum, the system will be able to meet the needs of a larger section of the deaf and hard of hearing sector.

Future service providers should have a system that is capable to operate at the fastest speed i.e 125 – 180 words per minute. (This system already exists and is operational) From this the system can be customised to slow down to meet speed requirements for text relay users and for DeafBlind users.

This cannot happen if it is the other way round. ie a system that is developed  that can operate at 60 words per minute as a benchmark. This cannot be speeded up to meet the needs of hard of hearing users who require a minimum of 125 wpm to have a real time, functional equivalent conversation

Therefore proposing 60 words per minute is not acceptable and KPI’s should be set to 125 wpm to ensure any system have the capacity to meet the needs of all deaf and hard of hearing users.

If Ofcom wishes to have one provider then it should be the provider that can deliver the fastest speeds and then build in slowing mechanism for other users identified and mentioned above.



DAART remains concerned that the proposals show a lack of understanding of how captioned relay operates and ignores the fact that the system is readily available.  This has been circumvented by providing proposals for NGTR without providing details of how it will operate. The proposed KPI of 60 wpm as a benchmark does not give confidence that the NGTR will represent the changes and improvements that are sorely needed for deaf and hard of hearing people

DAART reiterates that the way forward is to develop a funding model to support ALL relay services and allow potential providers to put in tenders that meet high KPI specifications to provide this. This will promote innovation, competition and promote choice for all deaf and hard of hearing end users.

DAART supports the conclusion from the UKCOD/TAG response.


July 2012


Telephone relay services in UK & OFCOM

20 10 2011

DAART’s response to OFCOM’s consultation document on Relay Services is on DAART’s website.

The deadline for this is 5pm today.

Do look at Hearing Link’s website where they have submitted a response to OFCOM.

Also look at TAG’s website where TAG has sent in a consolidated view from the member organisations.

Text relay services: new research project

31 08 2010

PhotobucketOfcom are asking people to have their say by taking part in their new research project about the future of text relay and other services for people who are deaf, hard of hearing or with speech difficulties.

A major research project is about to start on the subject of text relay services. The review will consider how people who are deaf, hard of hearing  or have speech difficulties currently use communications services and what they need to be able to communicate effectively with other people.

The research is being carried out by Opinion Leader, an independent research company on behalf of Ofcom, the independent body that regulates the communications industry.

They are looking for the following people to help  with this research:

  • People who currently use text relay services
  • Non-users of text relay services who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech difficulties
  • People who have used other types of relay services

There are a number of different ways that you can take part in the research. These include:

  • Face-to-face interviews or small group discussions with communications support as required
  • Live, online group discussions
  • Questionnaire completed by text relay
  • Questionnaire completed online
  • Pen and paper questionnaire that you can send back in a prepaid envelope

People taking part in the face to face or online discussions will receive a payment of £35 as the interviews will take up to 1.5 hours . There is limited space, but all applicants will be contacted by return email.  They will do their very best to make sure you can take part in the manner of your preference.

If you are interested in taking part, you can visit the registration page or write to Jessica Irwin-Brown, Opinion Leader Relay Services Research Team, FREEPOST RSAB-RHBG-YKSZ, United Kingdom.

There are full details of the research on the registration web page, but if you need any more information, email  relayservices@opinionleader.co.uk with your name, telephone number and postal address and they will contact you directly.

Information in BSL format

I’m pretty disgusted.

Nothing has changed – for years. See this BBC news article on Captel – dated 2004! It says,

The cost of new technology does mean much of it is unavailable to most deaf people. Teletec are hoping that the telecoms regulator Ofcom will soon recognise the lack of funding and make communication in homes, not just workplaces, easier for the hard of hearing.

I used Captel for 3 years and it was fantastic – 99% of people had no idea I was deaf. Captel is free 24/7/365 in the USA. It’s available in Canada and Sweden. Our government and Ofcom STILL can’t see that deaf people need a modern telephony service. Our MPs say ‘Oh, deaf people have got Text Relay, so what’s the problem?’ (Text Relay was formerly known as Typetalk)

One of the main problems is that using Text Relay means it is very difficult to connect to an automated phone system, therefore it doesn’t work with most modern telephony services. It’s too slow. Phone the bank? I’d need half an hour just to get through! I would also need to get hold of a real person who can speak English – not one of those Indian call centres or an automated switchboard as they can’t cope with a text relay call. Text Relay’s response is;

Direct text solution for contacting organisations

14 Apr 2010

Dealing with a call centre via a text relay can sometimes be a frustrating experience.  Recognising this a number of companies are now providing a direct text alternative.

At Text Relay we’ve compiled a list of organisations and their textphone numbers to help people who use text.  You can download the list from our downloads page.

This isn’t good enough. This only works for a deaf person like me when I have access to a textphone. I don’t use a textphone, I use a telephone (Geemarc Screenphone) because I can speak and I don’t have all day to type out my replies. Plus, a lot of organisations just let their minicoms ring and ring.

I want the same independence as a hearing person to make a phone call! It seems, the only way to do this is to get a cochlear implant and learn how to hear. This is not an option that’s available or desirable to all deaf or hard of hearing people.

The Telecommunications Action Group have been running a campaign to get an improved text relay service in the UK. The BBC reported on the campaign when TAG called on the government for funding in 2008. I took part in a research project for Plum Consulting and Ofcom in June 2009.

So why have Ofcom commissioned yet ANOTHER research project on text relay services??? Why can’t they see that we NEED a proper phone service that meets everyone’s needs?? What’s so difficult about that? Other countries can do it. Why can’t we?

Do we need to take away hearing people’s access to phones for them to sit up and listen, understand, and do something about it??

Click on the link for information on the TAG telecoms campaign and how YOU can help. It’s up to us to make the difference!

Funnyoldlife’s tracking of TAG’s telephone campaign.

Ofcom report into telecommunications for deaf people

1 07 2009

Ofcom have now published their long-awaited report on telecommunications for deaf people, the current provision in the UK and their recommendations. Another, more detailed, report is to follow.

I took part in this study and hope we do get captioned relay and video relay phone systems back into the UK. I’ve only made about 3 phone calls this year, and have relied instead on email, SMS, MSN Messenger, and asking hearing people to make calls for me. That’s how frustrating and difficult it can be for a deaf person to make a phone call in this modern day and age. Ridiculous, isn’t it?

Ofcom report : Foreword

Voice telephony services for deaf people

Plain English summary

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.

Telephony campaign : parliamentary reception

16 10 2008

TAG held a parliamentary reception last night in Westminster to highlight the need for modern telephony services for deaf, Deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK, with the aim of raising this vital issue in the House of Commons.

Malcolm Bruce MP who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Deafness and who hosted the reception, said, “Four decades after telephones became commonplace in British households, many deaf people still struggle to use the telephone network and some cannot use it at all. Deaf people are bereft of key telephone services that could help them gain social, educational and professional equality with the rest of society. Modernised phone relay systems can dramatically improve their telecommunications, but the powers that be are dragging their feet in ensuring that they are available and affordable. This is an increasing and unintended form of discrimination that must be rectified. The sorts of services that are required are already available at no extra cost to individuals in countries such as Sweden, the USA and Australia.”

The new services were displayed at the reception and everyone was able to try them out.

Text Relay

Text relay has been around in the UK since the 1980s but has not been developed due to funding issues, it still uses analogue phone lines and is too slow. (I can’t tell you how many times hearing people have hung up on me – I now ask hearing colleagues to make my phone calls for me). RNID’s new TalkByText service works a bit like msn to msn, on Windows and over the broadband networks. This service means a deaf person can use their computer to call a hearing person’s phone, and their reply will be displayed on the computer as text. This service is aimed at companies who want to comply with the DDA and handle textphone calls over the broadband networks. Calls can also be made pc to pc. The deaf person will see real-time, character by character text. A TalkByText program is installed on each computer being used for text conversation. The service is routed through BT TextDirect / Typetalk. This service is also ideal for home users who don’t wish to have a phone at home. For about £30/month they can have this service on their pc at home. I tried this one out and thought it was ideal for those who don’t speak on the phone. For more information, see RNID TalkByText.

Video Relay

Video relay allows sign language users to use an online interpreter to communicate using a webcam or videophone. In the UK, two services operate – Sign Video by Significan’t, and a small Scottish service. The handset looked like a really funky piece of equipment.

The larger photo is of the interpreter. He listens to the hearing person on the other end of the phone through his headphones, and signs their reply back to the deaf person. The deaf person is shown on the small in-screen photo. The sizes of both images can be moved around and resized. Have you spotted the glass bits on the top? Those are lights, which flash when the phone rings. Cool!

Captioned Telephony

This uses two communication channels and speech recognition software so it’s very fast. The hearing person’s speech can be read on the deaf person’s computer/PDA/telephone screen and the deaf person simply speaks back directly to the hearing person. The captioned telephony service closed in the UK in December 2007 due to lack of funding. For more information, email acceque @ btinternet .com

I had captioned telephony for a year and fooled SO many hearing people into thinking I was a hearing person, as they couldn’t tell they were talking to a deaf person. Yay. I decided to call Vic and give him a surprise. He was completely bowled over that I could call him and talk to him on the phone … yep, total surprise there!

TAG’s demands

TAG wants the Government and Ofcom to commit to delivering promptly on the following before the end of 2008:
– Interoperable, affordable real-time text communication on mobile and IP networks
– Interoperable, open-standards based captioned relay services at no extra cost
– A UK national open standards video relay service for fixed, mobile and Internet users
– Open-standards based IP access to text relay services
– Suitable text and video tariffs on all mobile networks.

Please help to support TAG’s campaign for equal telephony access for deaf people. It really does need to be dragged into the 21st century. There are over 9 million people in the UK who could benefit from this technology.

Just think. You might become a little hard of hearing one day and want to be able to continue using the phone. You might be a BSL user and be sick of using minicoms which people don’t know how to use, or sick of asking hearing people to make phone calls for you. You might be deaf with speech and miss having access to an efficient, modern, professional telephone service – JUST LIKE HEARING PEOPLE.


How can you help the campaign?

# You can join the campaign group on FACEBOOK called “Campaign : deaf people want greater access to modern phone technology.
# Contact TAG (tagenquiries @ hotmail.c om)
# LOBBY YOUR LOCAL MP. You can find your local MP at Write to Them. Explain how a 24 hour captioned or video relay phone service at NO extra cost would help you.
# TELL YOUR FRIENDS and ask them to write to their MP.
# PUBLICISE THIS CAMPAIGN and tell everyone about it.
# ASK FOR A DEMONSTRATION – contact TAG. Once people have seen it, they will want it!

Media Contact:
Stephen Fleming at Palam Communications
t: 01635 299116
e: sfleming @ palam.c o.uk