Making deaf children matter

Musings and blogs from a deaf campaigner

Deaf people’s access to telecoms

Posted by Ian Noon on July 29, 2009

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 Whilst it was breaking down barriers when I was growing up, now it just feels horribly outdated for the modern age.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.

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2 Responses to “Deaf people’s access to telecoms”

  1. MM said

    One consensus is the whole thing has not been thought out at all. Seems a mish-mash of a bit of this bit of that. The Typetalk system is discrdited, and probably on borrowed time as well, after Ofcom deemed it unusable in the main for deaf people. TAG who are co-sponsors chose to ignore Ofcom findings or just didn’t read them, or they would not support RNID involvements again with BT at all. The RNID wants its OWN System in there again ! The EDM is doomed to failure, I asked for assurances, and indeed a coherent PLAN for a national deaf service and TAG nor the MP concerned could provide one, mainly because not one single group supporting this EDM has any connections to deaf people or is able to consult them, so its a collection of hearing people suggesting what hard of hearing people might find useful. In the very remote view it is taken up, you will find deaf piling in and wanting access as well, then what ? another 12 years of faffing about whilst deaf find something else instead again. Mobile texting and online video access has, already provided many deaf with what they want. They have not supported the EDM either have they ?

    • Jill Hipson said

      I don’t agree with MM and think the campaign is on the right lines. We have waited a long time for modernised telephone services, they are long overdue. MM’s approach won’t help at all, why can’t he get off his soapbox and accept the need to support the campaign and encourage others to support it too.

      The EDM is a great way to promote the needs of deaf people. I’ve already asked my MP to sign it.

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