Ofcom Update: Ofcom publishes research on Text Relay services

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Ofcom has today published research to assess how well the current Text Relay service is working for deaf and hearing-impaired people in the UK.

The current Text Relay service enables people with hearing and/or speech difficulties to communicate with others using a relay assistant in a call centre, who types what the hearing person says and speaks what the hearing and/or speech-impaired person types.

The research aimed to assess, amongst other things, the existing Text Relay service and alternatives to it, to understand which of the features of the service are important and which additional features, if any, would be desirable.

The independent research was conducted by Opinion Leader and involved over 300 interviews, as well as focus groups, and found that:

  • People who have hearing and/or speech difficulties make use of a wide variety of communications services (e.g. SMS and email), some of which they report as more suitable for contacting friends and family than they are organisations/business;
  • The range of methods used to communicate with business and organisations is narrower than that used to communicate with friends/family;
  • People valued the Text Relay service but considered improvements could be made to it to enable more natural real time conversations, for instance by allowing interruptions to conversations to be made more easily;
  • Users of Text Relay experienced difficulties in communicating with organisations who were unwilling to accept or make Text Relay calls for technical reasons or in the drive for efficiency e.g. due to time targets set for calls in call centres; and
  • Many participants believe that additional relay services would be useful for them, such as Captioned Telephony and Video Relay for British Sign Language users.

Ofcom will consider the research and will publish a consultation setting out proposals for the future of the Text Relay service in spring 2011.

The full research can be found here:
http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/market-data-research/telecoms-research/ofcom-relay-services/

Mark Burcher