Regulator says current 'text relay' service for disabled people is slow and awkward and wants to put a better one in place
All UK landline and mobile providers will have to give their customers access to a next-generation ‘text relay' service if proposals put forward by Ofcom are put in place.
The communications regulator said these services offer huge benefits for people with hearing and speech impediments, and remain hugely important.
"People with disabilities can face barriers when using communications services. Although the growth in the availability and use of broadband and mobile data services, particularly email and mobile text messaging, has helped disabled end users to communicate, the ability to make and receive telephone calls remains crucially important in today's society.
"Users with hearing and/or speech impairments, in particular, can face barriers when accessing voice telephony," Ofcom said in its review of these services.
It said the next-generation systems, which would use the internet and computers and smartphones would be faster than the current relay system. Ofcom said the current system where a relay assistant acts as an intermediary to convert speech to text and vice versa between is slow and awkward.
Claudio Pollack, Ofcom's consumer group director, said: "We believe the proposed new text relay services would significantly improve the ease with which users with hearing and/or speech impairments will be able to communicate with others by phone, including making use on the move easier via mobile technology."
The regulator has set up a consultation on its proposals and will take responses up until 13 July this year. It will also continue to work with Government and disability groups to encourage the provision of video relay services by communications providers and other organisations and businesses voluntarily.
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