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‘Deaf Access to Communications’ Category

01 AprOfcom – Telecoms

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How broadband and mobile firms are protecting vulnerable customers during coronavirus pandemic

Keeping the UK’s communications networks going is more important than ever. So we welcome the efforts of the UK’s main broadband and mobile companies who have committed to helping their customers deal with issues they might face as a result of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Measures recently agreed with Ofcom and Government include supporting customers who are finding it difficult to pay their bills during the current situation; removing all data caps on broadband services; and offering new mobile and landline packages – including free calls – to help people stay in touch with each other.

The focus of providers right now must be on keeping people connected, especially those who need most support. So as a result of the unprecedented challenges industry is dealing with, we have provided advice about how they should comply with some of our rules at this time, with specific details on automatic compensation and the Broadband Speeds Code of Practice.

We are continuing to work closely with phone and broadband providers to ensure people can stay connected and are treated fairly.

25 MarAccess to Relay UK for regular calls

Ofcom is working closely with the UK’s telecoms providers (in particular with BT) to make sure all consumers have access to essential communications services during the current situation.

BT is maintaining the Relay UK services and is making sure its staff are able to deal with calls to its 18000 service (the equivalent of 999).

Customers have noticed recently that they have to wait longer than usual to access the service.  This is due to more calls and way calls are answered and handled.

BT has introduced a range of measures to help Relay UK manage better with more calls.

BT is:

  • Reallocating staff from other duties to relay calls
  • Recruiting and training additional staff
  • Looking at options to reduce hang-ups while callers/called parties are waiting for the relay assistant to be joined to the call

Text relay calls are currently handled in a number of locations across the UK.  BT may open an additional call centre if this is necessary, and this is being considered.

BT are looking in to prioritising relay calls to NHS 111 so people with health needs will be handled first.

It is useful to remember that NHS 111 is now accessible 24 hours a day in British Sign Language.  Relay UK users who are BSL users also have this option: https://interpreternow.co.uk/nhs111.

18 MarBBC – Government briefings in BSL on Coronavirus

The BBC have announced that they will be providing Sign Language Interpretation on all weekday Coronavirus government briefings and that the BBC is doing everything it can to ensure these important briefings are accessible.

Please note:  Due to limited resources there will be some changes to live signing on the BBC News from Monday 23rd March as follows:

On weekday mornings there will be signing from:-

07:45 – 08:15

13:00 – 13:30

News will be signed each weekday as normal as will the 07:00 – 07:30 slots on weekends.

The situation is quickly developing and the BBC will keep you informed of any further changes to their  sign language coverage.

We would be grateful if you could share these changes with your networks.

18 DecConsultation – BSL access 999 emergency

The regulator, Ofcom, have published a consultation setting out the case for the 999 emergency service phone line to be contactable in BSL.

Ofcom want feedback on
  • the need for BSL access to 999; and
  • to understand how the deaf community wants the service to work

Three BSL videos are available on the Ofcom Website and can be viewed here or you can read a transcript (PDF, 209.1 KB) of the three videos.

Details of how to respond back to Ofcom are also available on their website.

What UKCoD are doing 

To put pressure on Ofcom we need to demonstrate the barriers deaf people face. We need to show why text based solutions don’t work for BSL users. 

To gather this information, UKCoD have recently created a Facebook Group called BSL access 999 emergency

What can you do

  • Join the BSL access 999 emergency Group; and
  • Share your experience of access 999 – or your fears about having to access emergency services via a text service
  • Explain how access in BSL to the fire, police and ambulance would help

If you don’t have a facebook account or wish to share something in private 

Please e-mail us at campaigns.email@hearingloss.org.uk – this will not be made public without your clear permission.

See Full details on our Facebook page.

25 NovBT rebrand Next Generation Text to Relay UK

BT launched  Relay UK today with a new and improved app.  It brings relay services for deaf, hard-of-hearing, and speech-impaired people right up to date with the latest app technology.

The service remains free to use for all UK mobile customers in the UK and the new app can be downloaded from the Apple Store or on Google Play for Android onto your smartphone, tablet or computer.

The Ofcom regulated service translates text to speech and vice versa with the help of a specially trained Relay Assistant based in one of BT’s contact centres around the country.

The new app offers an improved customer experience and new functionality. The technology, developed by BT, enables a user to easily make a call based on their own accessibility needs. The user can connect to calls by selecting one of three options: Type & Read, Speak & Read or Type & Hear.

To find out more about how it works, visit: https://www.relayuk.bt.com/