Good news for consumers who are text relay users

Today Dame Anne welcomed news that all landline and mobile phone providers will have to provide a new and improved ‘text relay’ service for people with hearing and speech impairments.

Under the current relay system, an assistant acts as an intermediary to convert speech to text and vice versa for the two parties. Therefore, the speed of conversation is generally slow, as callers must take turns to speak or type.

Following consultation, Ofcom have decided that phone providers must now offer a ‘next generation’ text relay service, to all customers who require it, within the next 18 months.

Dame Anne said: “Using the telephone is something that we all take for granted but if you have a hearing or speech impairment the current relay system can be frustrating due to the inability to express emotion or interrupt.

“Therefore, I am pleased that Ofcom have introduced measures to ensure that all phone users will have access to a greatly improved text relay service allowing for faster, more fluent conversations.

“Technology is always evolving and I am also happy that Ofcom have stated that they will continue to work to ensure disabled users can access reliable, up-to-date relay services which help them communicate more easily.”

The new ‘text relay’ service will offer significant improvements for people with hearing and speech impairments, including:
Parallel two-way speech, which makes use of an internet connection to allow users to interject, instead of having to wait until the end of a message.

Ofcom is also working with government and disability groups to encourage the provision of video relay services by communications providers, organisations and businesses on a voluntary basis. Alongside this, we will examine the case for requiring providers to provide video relay services in future.