The pain and the pleasure of captioning telephone calls

3 04 2017

captioning telephone calls

Is captioning telephone calls necessary?

Today, it’s difficult to imagine not having a telephone or a mobile phone. On this day in 1973, the first mobile phone call was made in New York. The Motorola mobile phone used was bigger than a brick. It was 9 by 5 inches and weighed over 2 pounds. The talk time on this phone was only 30 minutes, and it took 10 hours to recharge.

Today, the smallest mobile phones will fit on your key fob. Technology has moved fast in 44 years. The top smartphones offer a glittering array of features such as iris and fingerprint scanning. Packing in more and more features, the top phones are getting bigger – often at the cost of a shorter battery life – and can cost as much as a cheap car.

With all these advances in technology, you’d think one group of people who can’t use the phone would be well served: deaf people. Mobile phones have been a boon for deaf people as they can now send text messages and use Whatsapp. But when a deaf person needs to interact with a hearing person, it suddenly becomes a different ballgame. There are 70 million deaf and hard of hearing people worldwide who have difficulty using telephones. Say hello to captioning telephone services.

READ MORE

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Two Phones Tina

29 11 2012

We have taken on a lot of new staff recently and a colleague Martin emailed the team a list of everyone’s phone extension numbers to keep us all straight. I replied to him with a reminder to let the newbies know that I can’t hear well on the phone and they are not to phone my extension, although I could understand him on the phone alright as I know his voice quite well so I don’t mind if he rings me. If I know it’s him, he’s likely to talk about a front desk issue, so I have an ‘expected’ set of vocabulary to listen to. Having an idea of what someone is going to say makes for an easier time when working out what they are actually saying. He asked me if my phone has caller ID, he rang me, I checked, and it does. I just need to make sure I pick up the digital phone and not the analogue textphone. (Yeah this is Two Phones Tina you’re speaking to)

So I was totally horrified to get this group email from Martin a few minutes after our chat ….

Sorry, should have added on that last email for those that aren’t aware, while Tina is getting used to using the phone since having her cochlear implants, she does like getting the practice, particularly with a range of different voices so, do feel free to call her on the number below but don’t be surprised if she hangs up on you if you’re mumbling or speaking too quickly 😉 She will know who’s called though through the caller id display…

*faints*

Of course, knowing my lovely colleagues, straight away my phone rang – F******!

I checked the caller ID……. Thank. You. Kathy.

Kathy says hi, can you hear me okay, I have a cold so my voice sounds different, are you lipreading me through the glass wall?… can you understand me without lipreading? ok I need to slow down a bit … blah blah blah ….. so you have improved a lot, you can hear me okay, I think I will phone you every day so you can get some more practice …

I put the phone down. Stunned.

BOOYA!





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.





Look after the customers and the business will look after itself

13 04 2011

I used a text relay service called Text Direct (Typetalk) to try to call Virgin last week. As often happened, the text relay operator would dial the number, and reach a call centre. Now, as the options are read out, there is not enough time for the text relay operator to listen to the options and type them, for me to read them and tell the operator which choice I want, in time for him/her to choose the correct option so that I can be put through. The operator told me she was unable to hear me over the options being read out. What was I supposed to do?!

I asked to speak to a supervisor at Text Direct and they explained the system could not cope with automated calls. What I was asked to do was to tell the relay operator, prior to making a call, which service I wanted from the person I was calling. So, phone in hand, I took a deep breath and tried again. I explained to the operator and she stopped the call going through, and asked me to give her all the details (such as my account number etc), then she dialled again. This time, I got through to Virgin, and their operator promptly hung up. All service providers are required to provide access via a text relay service to deaf people. Their website says ~

Type Talk

Virgin Money welcome calls through the Type Talk service provided by BT. Call 18001 followed by the number you require, you’ll then be connected to an operator offering text phone assistance.

Obviously, the text relay operator had started explaining what Text Relay does, and Virgin’s operator couldn’t be bothered to listen. See … that’s the other side of hearing impairment … the social model of disability, where hearing people won’t listen and understand …. hence access barriers still exist! By this time, I was seething. I called Text Direct again, who put me through to Virgin (after giving Text Direct all my details again), and this time I got through. Hallelujah.  Even better, this rep was fine with accepting a text relay call.

At the end of my call, I explained what had happened with my last attempt to call Virgin. I asked for a  manager to call me back, thinking they wouldn’t bother. This one call took me 30 minutes to make – it would have taken a hearing person 5 minutes to make the same call. It’s so aggravating, isn’t it. I’ve got a busy day at work as well, just like everyone else.

The upshot of all this was that Virgin called me back when they said they would, they apologised profusely, listened to all I had to say (which was a lot!), were extremely polite, took the incident seriously, and said their first rep would be dealt with. I made recommendations on more ways they could be accessible to deaf people (MSN, Skype etc) and they explained their online access facility, which I didn’t know about. They said they were extremely grateful for the feedback and offered me £30 for the hassle.

I’m soooo impressed. What blisteringly good customer service!





Better telephone access for deaf people

2 09 2010

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 …..

NEWS RELEASE

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

Media Contact

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


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:

  1. You can place a call via AIM by sending an IM with the phone number in it.
  2. 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!

CapTel
Hamilton CapTel
Sprint CapTel
Ultratec

There is also a service called PhoneCaption.





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.