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.

TAG takes deaf telephone relay services campaign online

20 10 2010

TAG wants to hear from you!

The campaign to enable deaf and hard-of-hearing people to access the telephone as easily and at the same price as hearing people has gone online to reach a wider audience.

Anyone can find out more about the campaign on the new TAG website, on Facebook and on Twitter @DeafTAG. There is information about the newer types of relay services that ought by now to be widely available in the UK, case studies of the telecoms needs of deaf people, hints on how to contact and lobby MPs, latest campaign developments and much more.

Ruth Myers, Chairman of TAG, said: “We are taking the campaign to bring deaf telecoms into the 21st century online so that more deaf and hearing people will understand the issues and start lobbying their MPs for the changes that we so badly need. We are providing lots of campaign information online and giving people the chance to air their views and needs.

“We want to hear from deaf individuals who are frustrated through not having access to modernised relay services because of availability and/or cost. And we also want to hear from hearing people who also want to benefit from being able to contact deaf family, friends, colleagues and customers via the new types of relay that need to be made available in the UK.

“From being one of the leaders in deaf telecoms, the UK is now lagging behind many other countries where services like video relay and captioned relay are readily available at no extra cost to users. The UK urgently needs to catch up and give deaf and hard of hearing people a fair deal.

“TAG is very grateful to Geemarc for sponsoring the website. Any other organisation or individual who can contribute to the Campaign is very welcome to contact us!”

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 TAGFacebook and Twitter @DeafTAG.

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

Ask your MP to sign EDM on deaf telecoms

24 07 2009

MPS sign Early Day Motion about modernising deaf telecoms

TAG urges deaf people to ask their MPs to sign the motion

Deaf people and those wishing to telephone them are being urged to ask their MPs to sign an Early Day Motion (EDM) calling for the modernisation of deaf telephone services.

Within hours of being tabled by the Rt Hon Malcolm Bruce MP, the EDM had gained significant cross-party support.

Ruth Myers, Chair of TAG, which is campaigning for better telecoms services for deaf people, said: “We urge anyone living in the UK to contact their MP asking them to support the motion. An easy way to contact your MP is through the Write To Me website. “We are delighted with the cross-party support that the EDM has quickly attracted and very appreciative of Malcolm Bruce for tabling it.”

Led by TAG, a consortium of the UK’s main deaf organisations, deaf people are calling for new-style telephone relay services that will enable them to use the phone much more effectively and put them on a more equal footing with hearing people. A series of parliamentary questions asked by supportive MPs has revealed some of the government’s thinking on the issue and an Ofcom report earlier this month highlighted many of the issues that TAG is campaigning about.

The EDM (number 1915) reads:

“That this House believes that deaf and severely hard of hearing people are being excluded from benefiting from modern telecommunications; recognises that improvements and modernisation are needed to the telephone relay services by which they and hearing telephone users communicate; further recognises that the technology required to bring about these improvements is available and is in use in several countries; further believes that wide availability of broadband connections will dramatically enhance the relay service facilities that can be offered; and calls on the Government to use the Digital Britain report as the basis to introduce a package of service developments and funding which will end the exclusion of a million of our fellow citizens.”

TAG is a consortium made up of the British Deaf Association, Deafness Support Network, deafPLUS, Hearing Concern Link, National Association of Deafened People, National Deaf Children’s Society, Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID), and Sense.

Deaf telephone services that can change lives:

Captioned telephony

Captioned telephony was available in the UK from 2002-2007 on a very limited basis. It offers almost simultaneous text transcription of the voice channel so that people with hearing loss can follow the conversation on their PCs or telephone displays with minimal delay. Captel, the only captioned relay service in the UK, was closed in December 2007 for funding reasons.

Video Relay

Video relay enables sign language users to communicate with anyone 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. In 2007, video relay services run by RNID and the BDA closed because of a lack of funding.

Text Relay

A form of text relay has existed in the UK since the 1980s and as a national service since 1991, but a strict legal regime has inhibited its development. Specifically, the current Text Relay service (formerly called RNID Typetalk) is only directly accessible via traditional analogue phone lines. 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 direct mobile and Internet access.

Media Contacts

Stephen Fleming at Palam Communications
t 01635 299116
e sfleming @ palam .co.uk

(Personally, I’ll also be writing, with disgust, to my MP regarding EDM number 1910)

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

Tag – you’re it!

18 04 2008

Sarah at Speakuplibrarian has tagged me. This is a fun way to get to know other bloggers better. So here are the RULES.

1) Each player must post the rules at the top.
2) Answer the questions in bold
3) Tag five people you would like to know better, go to their blogs, let them know they’ve been tagged and ask them to read your blog.

This is just for fun, so don’t feel like you have to play. Here are my answers to the questions…

What I was doing ten years ago.
I was a part-time law student and working for Barclays Bank during the day. Only averaging 3 hours sleep a night and developing a nice pair of black eyes.

Five snacks I enjoy:
1. Flapjacks
2. Yoghurt
3. Peanut butter and banana sandwiches
4. Sausage rolls
5. Muffins

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
1. Buy a beach front property
2. Set up a centre offering fully accessible leisure activities
3. Start a charity, run by deaf people for deaf people

Jobs I have had:
1. Pensions – the kiss of death, really!
2. Banking – loved it, the pressure was on every day.
3. Fitness instructor – complete with rude clients!
4. Trainee lawyer – hated corporate, loved personal injury.
5. Finance consultant – travelling around the country fixing other people’s systems, I was really making a difference to operations and it was a nice challenge too. I never knew who the next client would be.
6. Finance manager – once I had ‘fixed’ the system, it quickly became a boring and stale job.
7. Deaf awareness trainer – freelance. Love doing this and making a difference.
8. Careers consultant – helping people find their way. I never know who the next client will be or what they will ask me. Love it.

Three habits
1. That first coffee in the morning. Without it, I start dying slowly…
2. Mouse potato
3. Sneaking photos of people

Five places I have lived:
1. A house styled after the local church and it’s steeple, painted white inside and out – Ireland
2. A Victorian house with an Aga in the kitchen, which was the soul of the house (as it should be) – Ireland
3. A city apartment with sunny balcony and tortoiseshell cat – downtown Chicago
4. A Georgian house with ants in the laundry room, my bedroom ceiling fell in when it rained – Gibraltar
5. A beautiful but freezing Georgian apartment with wood floors, freezing because the ceilings too high and rooms too big, but with a lovely big garden – London

Five people I would like to get to know better:
1. Colette of Lette’s Blog
2. TutleyMutley of KnitKnack Paddywack
3. Flirty of Irish Flirty Something
4. Roads of Roads of Stone
5. Claire of Gingerpixel