An early day motion (or a parliamentary petition to you and me) has been tabled in Westminster about deaf people’s access to the telephone, telecommunications, etc. The petition is aiming to raise awareness of a campaign by the Telecommunications Action Group (TAG) which brings together various deaf organisations and individuals.
My friend has blogged about this and I think it’s an important campaign. In my office, I have two special phones for which I can use Typetalk, the text relay service. But I hardly use either of them. I find Typetalk clunky, it makes conversations stilted and much longer and any hearing person I ever call often suggests continuing a conversation by email whenever I use it. Whilst it was breaking down barriers when I was growing up, now it just feels horribly outdated for the modern age. Deaf young people I meet often feel they same and often don’t use Typetalk at all. Instead, they favour texts and email.
But there are times when you just need to make a phone call. In America, they have captioned telephony where deaf people get live subtitles on their computer screen retelling what the hearing person is saying, to which they reply verbally. I’ve never used it but it would seem to make for a more natural conversation where the hearing person doesn’t even need to know the caller is deaf. It would be ideal for someone like me and oral deaf young people. Other deaf people might want to see more video relay services to allow for BSL conversations.
But, at the moment, that choice isn’t there. We seem to face a bureaucratic ping pong between the Government, Ofcom and telephone companies over who should be providing that choice or taking responsibility for making it happen. It’s really not good enough in the 21st century.