Deaf users of relay services for making and receiving telephone calls have received a major boost with the relaunch of a captioned telephony service in the UK.
Significan't has introduced a real time captioning service called WebCapTel in which operators transcribe speech into text using voice recognition software and display it on the screens of desktop and mobile devices.
“Remote Captioning services are the best solution (for) instant communication access for deaf and hard of hearing people who may not be able to use sign language or prefer to speak direct to the called party,” says Significan’t managing director Jeff McWhinney.
A similar service run by Teletec was discontinued three years ago. Now Significan’t is urging people to sign up for its replacement by emailing email@example.com.
Captioned telephony should help overcome a big shortage of experts to relay speech to deaf people. Only 22 people are registered as text to speech reporters, according to Significan’t, catering for an estimated population of 400,000 deaf and hard of hearing people.
“[I am] very happy to hear we now have a modern telephony system back in the UK.” says Tina Lannin, a deaf blogger, “Now I don't have to ask an interpreter to make phone calls for me and I have my independence back.”
Captioned telephony is one of three types of relay service. Text relay, run by BT, is the oldest service and involves typing, while video relay involves an interpreter using sign language.
Only text relay is currently subsidised and the Phoneability group, which represents deaf and hard of hearing users, argues that a universal service fund would be the best way to give disabled users better access to phone services.