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

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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.





Hearing people and text phones

15 06 2010

Dear Auntie Tina

I’m writing a training course for hearing people who will be taking calls at a charitable organisation. Some of these calls may be from people using a text phone. To prepare people for what this might be like, I’m looking for a video of what this experience might be like for the hearing person answering the phone, or for someone who would be willing to audio-record a short conversation with me (I’m hearing) so I can use it as a demo in the training. I haven’t found anything on YouTube and the resources so kindly forwarded by RNID show how a textphone works from the device-user perspective. Thanks very much in advance if anyone would like to help!

Kristen

Hi Kristen

There is information for hearing businesses on how to receive a textphone call at Text Relay. All textphone-to-phone calls are automatically routed through Text Relay. Don’t forget that some deaf people prefer to use voice carry over (VCO) . Further information can be found at Text Relay for businesses.

Keep an eye out for Captel as this service closed 2 years ago in the UK, but deaf people we hope it will return soon. It works much faster than Text Relay. This works a little differently from Text Relay – the operator cannot take part in the conversation and the only giveaway is a 3 second delay in connecting the caller to the speaker. The Telecommunications Action Group (TAG) may be able to help you with a video.

Don’t forget about video relay calls from deaf people. You may be able to get  a video of this from Significan’t in Blackheath, London, who run such a service.

Tina





Video Relay Service scam

21 11 2009

A public service meant to help the hearing disabled has been exploited for “tens of millions of dollars,” according to the FCC. Arrests were made across the US this week and the FCC vowed to improve the service to better protect against fraud.

Article : Arrests made in massive, $390/hour Video Relay Service scam

Sigh. It was just a matter of time, wasn’t it? I’d like to see the scammers have their ability to hear removed. Let them see what it’s like for themselves!





Telecoms and Convergent Media Event

25 09 2009

The next in UCL Advances series of Technology Innovation Forum events will cover telecoms and convergent media and will take place on 12 November 2009 in central London.

How will new telecommunications technologies develop? Where will the social, economic and legal barriers between digital and real-world lives break-down? Where will the innovations in new media take us?

This half-day conference will cover:
• New telecoms and media technologies
• The need for collaboration between traditional telecom suppliers and media service providers
• The technical, legal and social problems faced and the disruptive forces to convergence

Although the technology is in place, deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK are being denied access to a modern telephone relay service. Christopher Jones is the director of AccEquE Ltd, a company that offers consultancy services in telecommunications for deaf and hard-of-hearing people. He will be speaking at this event about captioned telephony and video relay telephony for deaf and hard of hearing people. Come and show him some support, see him demonstrate captioned and video telephony for deaf people, try it out for yourself, and take this opportunity to ask him questions. The campaign to have a modern telephony service for deaf people in the UK is ongoing and Christopher is one of the leaders in this campaign.

Volunteers are needed to man the captioned telephony stand. Please contact Christopher on cfgjones at bt internet dot com if you can help.

Further details after the jump.

A palantypist (speech to text reporter) and Christopher’s sign language interpreter will be available at the event.





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)