Ofcom proposes expanded UK telephone relay service

Friday, 29 July 2011 13:11pm

Ofcom, the UK’s media and communications regulator, has released a Review of Relay Services, proposing a number of expansions to the current telephone relay service for people who are Deaf, hearing impaired or speech impaired.

Having completed substantial research in the area, the UK Review of Relay Services proposes:

  • the criteria which communications providers must meet under the Universal Service Directive should be extended to include requirements to support simultaneous two-way speech with live captions/text on relay services
  • the service should be accessible via off the shelf/mainstream consumer electronics such as PCs, while still supporting the current level of service to existing terminals.

These improved requirements would provide a flexible relay service which could be used in different ways according to user needs. It would provide many aspects of equivalence identified as important to users. Users of the enhanced service would benefit from support for two-way text, giving the ability to interrupt and support for two-way speech, both of which will enable a more natural flow of conversation. Users would also benefit from the use of mainstream equipment.

Ofcom is calling the new service Next Generation Text Relay (NGTR). NGTR will provide increased equivalence and it is anticipated that the total cost of the service will not exceed the current cost cap on access provisions.

Ofcom also examined video relay for people who use British Sign Language and other people with disabilities. Whilst not proposing to make video relay services mandatory, Ofcom is proposing its use on a limited basis in order to ensure that the service delivers the greatest benefits for disabled end-users.

Australia is also conducting a review of the National Relay Service and other telecommunications services for people with disability.

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