Telephones and deafness…

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:

http://www.textrelay.org/

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.

About Suzie

Mother, Wife, Teacher, Cook and Hearing dog owner. Passionate about Equality for deaf and deafblind people. Believes in communication for all and breaking down these barriers, real and perceived. Deafened.
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4 Responses to Telephones and deafness…

  1. Phil says:

    On my visit to City Lit day I saw the service being provided by (I forget now) where one rings a number and the other person’s speech is relayed onto a computer screen brilliant brilliant I thought, then the guy told me that they were working on a version for a mobile phone – wow even better I thought.

    I kept in contact with the company awaiting further details but alas they’ve had to cut back and take stock because they cannot get the funding to make the service work which is a GREAT shame I think, bummer

  2. Suzie says:

    Yeah I saw it too – that was Smart Captions. I don’t think it’s completely gone yet – someone needs to inject some cash into the project – it obviously works!

  3. Liz says:

    Oh Suzie. Well I won’t ramble on with Virgin for a start. As we know lots I can say on that one. So the latest on that you mention came to no surprise. Yet, if you would have been on BT, they would have checked for you, as they did with my Mum when she was with BT years ago. My Mum isn’t deaf, this was just a routine thing they did after my Mum complained one to many times about her phone not working. After repairing what was needed.

  4. Karen says:

    I know this side steps the issue a bit, but there is definitely a phone link here…

    The other issue now I think is a problem for deaf people is this:-

    Applying for jobs

    All DWP centres tell to to use search engines on the internet on various job websites.
    All jobs are advertised either online, or in a local newespaper… Just how many are able to be contacted via email?

    I have applied for numerous jobs and when a job agency sees my CV is a good match,I get contacted…. by telephone…(!)…. and when I explain that I am deaf ; although I can hear a bit and ask them to confirm the conversation via email; that is usually the end of the job application – people just do NOT want to help!

    Discrimination is “rife” here I think… Adding SMS only and my email address on my CV STILL does not help!!!

    Although the land of internet and texting on SMS has helped the deaf, it has also hindered us – I preferred the days of “pony express” where jobs are concerned!! At least you could read, write and go to the interview and THEN tell them you are deaf, EXPLAIN how various issues could be overcome; THEN let them judge you on your own merits.

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