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Deaf charities welcome Ofcom research into BT's text relay service

Thursday, November 5th 2015 by Ellen Branagh

Deaf charities have welcomed Ofcom’s leatest research into a text relay service for people with hearing and/speech impairments.

But Action on Hearing Loss and the National Deaf Children’s Society said more need to be done to improve the service and to make people aware it exists.

BT's Next Generation Text Relay (NGTR) service allows people with hearing or speech difficulties to use their smartphone, tablet or computer to type a message to a BT relay assistant, who speaks words to the person being called, and types or speaks their response.

The service can be used at home, in the office, or while out and about.

Ofcom commissioned research with text relay users before and after the launch of NGTR and has now published its findings.

The research, which included quantitative and qualitative elements, found that there was a high level of user satisfaction for the service, with the average number of complaints at 1 per 6,250 calls.

It found that text relay is used more to contact services or colleagues, as opposed to socialising with family and friends, where channels like SMS, web-chat and Skype were preferred.

Ofcom said it had published advice on how to switch voicemail on and off, and on how to receive calls if the NGT app was disconnected, after the study raised uncertainty about the areas.

Several users needed technical support – some had never downloaded an app before – and it was suggested that videos on the NGT website would help users with set-up.

Dr Roger Wicks, director of policy and campaigns at charity Action on Hearing Loss, said: ‘We welcome Ofcom’s research into the Next Generation Text Service (NGTS), with their findings highlighting the really positive benefits of the service, with people with hearing loss now being able to make telephone calls on the move.

'Many potential benefits'

‘We would welcome continued improvement to the instructions and information on the service’s website to support more people to download and use this really beneficial app.”

Susan Daniels, CEO of the National Deaf Children’s Society, said:
 “There is no doubt that once it is downloaded and up and running the app has many potential benefits.

“However, at the moment, many young people either do not know it exists or do not know how to set it up.”

She said they would like to see BT promote the app and the service across the media as well as on its own website to reach the 85% of deaf children and young people in mainstream education.

“We know that young people use a range of communication methods from Skype to texting but there will always be situations when a voice-to-text phone is needed,” she said.

“It is important that deaf young people don’t have to rely on their parents or friends to call their university, employer or bank.

“Therefore, we would encourage BT to address the points raised by Ofcom.”

BT said it's Next Generation Text (NGT) recently won an award at the Business Disability Forum's Disability-smart Awards in London on 28 October.

The company said it has been helping to train people from relevant organisations nationwide and had given away 500 devices to relevant charities.

The service is publicised on the NGTS website, BT said, and has had media coverage as well as being promoted at conferences and events.

BT said since the Ofcom research was conducted it has made significant changes to the advice available to users to help them get up and running, including a step-by-step video guide, which it is also working with a specialist agency to adapt for users of British Sign Language.

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