Ofcom proposes upgraded telecoms for disabled

Body recommends move to video relay for British Sign Language
Kerry Butters

July 28, 2011
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Ofcom has put forward new proposals to upgrade telephone services for the disabled, after research found the current text-relay services made conversing slow and didn’t allow conversations “to flow naturally.”

Ofcom want telephone companies to modify their service in order to bring it more in-line with voice communications, and will recommend the use of video relay for British Sign Language (BSL) users.

Ofcom Consumer Group Director, Claudio Pollack, said: “People with disabilities can face barriers when using communications services. Although the wide availability and use of broadband and mobile text services has provided greater opportunities for disabled people to communicate, people with hearing and/or speech impairments continue to meet barriers when using voice telephony.”

“The proposed measures outlined today aim to reduce these barriers by allowing conversations to flow naturally in real time.”

Members of the BSL have reportedly told Ofcom that they find the current text relay service difficult to use, although it was also discovered that many disabled users thought the service invaluable.

The proposals include “the introduction of simultaneous two-way speech with ‘live captions’. This will allow users to interject and would remove the need to say ‘go ahead’ after each part of a conversation, improving the flow of conversation.”

It also recommends that users be able to access services through computers, and that the upgrade should still allow users to use their existing relay equipment.

The regulatory body also suggest that video relay is introduced, initially on a limited basis, whilst it conducts a consultation on how to implement the service in the future.

Service providers are required by law to offer a text-relay service to its customers and the upgrades are considered an extension of existing directives.


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