This blog has been a long time coming. Lack of access for deaf people is rife. You may not have thought we would have issues. But we do. Lots of them. I’m going to start with the main one. That is the difficulty in using the telephone. If you need to know how we can use the telephone, this is a good explanation of Textrelay:
If you want us to come and show you how to use it, do get in touch. It’s really not that scary at all. Anyway, on with the story:
Our household is all deaf. There are no hearing people here to “help” us on the phone. Yet when I arrived, there wasn’t even a phone installed. I wondered why. I was told that it was a waste of time. No-one is confident in using a Textphone (Minicom) here. I can understand that – but why wasn’t there one to start off with?
“Ah” I am told by my partner (who is also deaf)…
“I asked my social worker if I could have one and the response was “I don’t think you qualify”… “Pardon?!”…. “Your speech is too good”….. Since when has good speech meant I can miraculously hear on a telephone?!”
Ok, so I go and eventually get a Virgin phone line put in. There is cable round here, you see. I really need a phone because everything is so reliant on phones. We use them to contact our employer, the Tax office, the local council, DVLA, for making doctors appointments, getting in touch with insurance companies, contacting the Police, ringing the bank, even a quick call for a local takeaway. You name it, you need to ring them. So I bring my old minicom to the house. I plugged it in, there was no signal. I ask the Virgin engineer “Why isn’t my phone working?”
“Nothing to do with me, I’m only here to put a phone line in” he explains.
“But how can I find out if it’s the line or my phone when I can’t hear if there is a connecting tone or not?” I ask.
“Sorry I can’t help you” is the reply, “I’m already late for my next job, my manager says I have to go now”.
So here we are with a phone line that we’ve paid for yet we can’t use. I go to Social services and ask if I can have a new minicom, because I’m sure my minicom is broken.
“We don’t provide minicoms anymore” says the access officer,
“You have to use “talk by text” it’s software you put on your computer to turn your computer into a minicom”
Ah – great -After all this hassle of getting a phone line put in, we may not need it anymore….and then I find out that I have to pay for this software.
“We will pay for hardwate and aids, but we will not pay for software”
Another cost cutting exercise by the local council. I think hard and realise that what if I have an emergency and I need to ring up quickly, I can’t do that if I’m waiting for my computer to load up. So back to the Social services I go.
“I’m sorry but I really do not want talk by text. I need a minicom so I can contact the services in an emergency.”
After a lot of wrangling and emailing, I eventually get a new minicom and finally we are in the land of telephones. You may think this is the solution to all our problems but no. My next blog will tell you just how hard it is to use textrelay and a minicom. How some businesses (especially public authorities) give you a minicom number to ring, but frustratingly never answer it, and others have a minicom number but disappointingly never publicise it…
And I will tell you how mobile telephony both helps and hinders deaf people and their access. Be warned mobile phone companies – it’s not going to be good reading for you.