BT has updated its text relay service to better support the deaf community in completing tasks over the phone and accessing vital services, such as health and social care.
The Next Generation Service, which translates text into speech and vice versa, has been rebranded as Relay UK to mark the launch of a new app that gives users more ways to make a call without having to use a textphone.
The technology allows people to make calls via a computer or on the move, using a PC, laptop and various tablets and mobile devices.
It also enables users to make a call based on their own accessibility needs by selecting one of three options: Type & Read, Speak & Read, or Type & Hear.
The news comes as new research reveals that 70% of the deaf community – 8.4 million people – need to ask friends or family members for help with making basic calls.
The poll, commissioned by BT in partnership with the UK Council on Deafness, shows that despite the rise in digital technologies, such as web chat and social media, phone calls remain an essential form of communication for 80% of the deaf community, with 46% calling businesses at least once a week.
However, for many, the calling experience for everyday tasks such as booking appointments (90%), paying bills (53%) or purchasing products and services (53%), is poor, with certain services, such as health and social care, inaccessible for a quarter of the deaf community.
The research shows that the biggest barrier (78%) to a successful call is frontline staff who are not trained or are inexperienced at taking calls from deaf customers, while the use of automated transfer services that are inaudible (67%) and a lack of technology available to help handle calls are also highlighted.
BT Ventures managing director Katherine Ainley said: “How we use technology to connect with each other has changed rapidly in recent decades, and this simple service transforms the calling experience for the estimated 12 million deaf people in the UK.”
“We know from conversations with the community that bad telephone experiences are putting people off from using the phone to contact businesses, which can make certain services inaccessible. We’re urging businesses to alert frontline staff to the service and download our helpful Relay UK Business Toolkit, which includes educational content about the service – and what to expect when taking a call from one of our Relay Assistants.”