Last night, I took part in an online focus group discussion about telephony services for some research being done for Ofcom. It was great fun. I would have done it for free, and they gave me £35 for taking part. Chocolate digestives all around!
I was asked lots of questions on what I wanted from telephony services and what I thought about text relay services, where a woman from Liverpool (where the service is based) reads out what I type on a textphone to the hearing person and then types back their reply. I gave my usual spiel that I only used text relay when I absolutely had to: that it was impersonal, took ages to make a phone call and that I hated having someone else speaking for me. It almost feels like having your Mum making phone calls for you. No wonder that so few deaf children and young people seem to use it.
Interestingly, I was then asked about what I thought about other technologies, such as video relay and captioned relay. Captioned relay would mean that I could speak for myself but that an operator would listen in and transcribe the conversation on my computer screen through the magic of the internet. It’s already readily available in the USA and Australia. It would be perfect for me and I would be phoning everyone up all the time if it was available here. I would be far better able to campaign for deaf children; I’d be on direct dial to the Houses of Parliament! So I felt encouraged that the researchers were sounding out people’s views on this and looking at other options. It’s on the agenda, which is a start.
Fingers crossed that the research finally leads to some positive change in the UK and that Ofcom act on it. It’s the 21st century: deaf children and adults shouldn’t be stuck with poor telephony services that don’t meet our needs.
The research are apparently still looking for people to take part – their website has more details. And my friend Tina does a lot of campaigning on this, as you can see from her blog, as do the Telecommunications Action Group (TAG).