Deaf people calling for better telephone access

Deaf people calling for better telephone access

Deaf telecoms not yet in the 21st century, says TAG

The Telecommunications Action Group (TAG) has accused the Government of letting down deaf and hard-of-hearing citizens by failing to enable them to have access to modernised, fairly-priced telecom services suited to their needs.

TAG is a consortium of all the UK's main deaf and hard-of-hearing organisations and is encouraging deaf people to lobby their MPs, calling for policies that will bring deaf telecoms in Britain into the 21st century.

According to TAG, new services that enable deaf people to use the phone have been available for several years and are used widely in countries like the US and Australia. However, although these services have appeared in the UK, only two remain as the others have been forced to close through lack of funding.

"Four decades after telephones became commonplace in British households, many deaf and hard-of-hearing people still struggle to use the telephone network and some cannot use it at all," said Ruth Myers, chair of TAG.

"They are bereft of key telephone services that could help them gain equality with the rest of society, educationally and professionally."

"New types of phone relay systems using technologies like video communications and the internet can dramatically improve telecommunications for deaf people, but the powers-that-be are dragging their feet in enabling their use by deaf and hard-of-hearing people at an affordable price."

"This is discrimination and an infringement of our human rights. Such services are already available at no extra cost in countries such as Sweden, the US and Australia."

To start the lobby of MPs, sign language users are expected to inundate one of the two remaining UK-based video relay services.

Sign language users will communicate with their MPs by phone via an interpreter and a system called video relay, while others will use captioned relay to talk to their MP using their own voice and reading the MP's reply in text on-screen almost as soon as he or she speaks.

"All deaf and hard-of-hearing people are asking for is to be able to use technology that already exists at a fair price," Myers concluded.