issue 19 / autumn 2006 www.tagcomm.org.uk
VoIP and deaf people
When VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) was planned to replace
the conventional PSTN telephone system in Simon Pearse's
ofﬁce, he was not too concerned – until he realised that his about deaf people
handset would be replaced and that his hearing aids did not work and telecoms,
well with the new handset. His experience is likely to be mirrored
in many workplaces as the popularity of VoIP increases. broadcasting and
VoIP (Voice over Internet
Protocol) is making a huge impact communications.
in voice telephony and is likely
to come to a phone near you
Inside this issue:
soon. VoIP call charges may be
cheaper than those available on
conventional (PSTN) systems. It VoIP and deaf people
is also more flexible and can offer
many advanced features. Getting free calls
However, VoIP is based on be some flexibility in the coder,
Internet technology and can defaults and the headset used. But Technology round-up
perform very differently from some VoIP systems use dedicated
conventional systems. This is good handsets which may or may not VoIP audio quality trial
and bad news for deaf people. be compatible with hearing aids.
Fortunately, some current VoIP Me & my noise-cancelling
VoIP and hearing aids systems enable users to plug in
In a worst case scenario, hearing their preferred PSTN handsets.” headphones
aid wearers may experience In the longer term, there
feedback when using a VoIP is potential for VoIP to make TAG's 21st birthday
phone. More commonly, they may telephone communication competition
find that their hearing aid is not easier for people with a hearing
compatible with their VoIP phone loss. VoIP can send much more
and they gain no benefit using information than conventional
their T-switch. They may also be phone systems, so there is
unable to control amplification a theoretical possibility of
and audio quality. If they are lucky, transmitting frequency ranges
they may actually experience that are more readily heard by
better quality sound, but this is individuals with a hearing loss. A
unlikely to happen by chance. trial planned by BT and NDCS
“Much depends on the voice will investigate the feasibility
coder and the capabilities of of providing a better acoustic
the terminal or handset you are experience for people with a
using,” explained Bill Pechey, Vice hearing loss with VoIP (see page 3
Chair of TAG. “If you use a PC or for news of a BT special project).
laptop there can, in theory at least, continued on page 2
sequel / autumn 2006
VoIP and deaf people (continued from page 1)
VoIP and textphone users at RNID and TAG member, added: “The good
Using text on VoIP systems might seem straight- news is that if a deaf person cannot use a new
forward, but it is anything but if you are using a VoIP phone system at work, he or she is perfectly
conventional textphone. entitled to ask for a PSTN line to get around the
It is quite likely that a textphone will not problem. The cost will be trivial to a business
work at all on a VoIP connection. If you do and a perfectly acceptable adaptation under the
obtain a successful connection, it may fail provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act.
mid- conversation. If the VoIP system is in the “But the long-term answer is native IP real-
workplace, it may not be possible to connect to time text solution. At RNID we are developing
the 18001 BT TextDirect number. TalkByText which is computer-based and already
“The emerging VoIP situation is very complex,” is available for use on a PC Windows desktop
commented Bill Pechey. "There are so many and mobile phones. We plan to make it available
possible variations in VoIP set-ups that deaf people through the web for use by any computer through
will probably just have to try out systems to see if a web browser. Its design will enable it to use
they work. Using an old-fashioned PSTN line may lots of additional features that become possible
be the best immediate solution if problems are through IP communications. Through a gateway, it
encountered.” can also make and receive calls to and from PSTN
Guido Gybels, Director of New Technologies phones.”
When a free calls offer led to a ten-month headache
Ten months ago, when textphone user and TAG member
Christopher Jones saw the BT Broadband Talk offer of free
or cheap calls, a huge smile appeared on his face. Today, he
grimaces when he remembers what followed and wonders if
other deaf people have had similar experiences.
The BT Broadband Talk offer of took several months as BT, BT I was still
free calls to 01 and 02 numbers Broadband and BT Broadband being charged
plus better than normal BT rates Talk appeared to be "passing the for the free calls
on many other calls suited me buck" from one to another. At through TextDirect!
very well, writes Christopher one stage, I was offered a one- Apparently, their billing
Jones of TAG. I signed up and off payment to settle the issue department hadn't been pro-
looked forward to cheaper but I refused that on principle. grammed to filter out free calls.
telephone bills. When the first I then approached BT Age and I'm still waiting to see if the mess
bill arrived I saw that my hear- Disability. They took up the issue has now been sorted out.
ing partner was getting free and told me that I could use my VoIP services like BT Broad-
calls, but that my own text calls textphone on the BT Broad- band Talk can obviously bring
going via TextDirect were being band Talk line. I was also offered huge benefits. But I do wonder if
charged at full rate! a paltry £50 compensation to textphone users will always ben-
I challenged BT saying that I cover the previous over-charging efit. Textphone technology often
was being discriminated against. and the many hours of calling the requires special features that
BT suggested that I withhold three different helpdesks! may slip through billing systems.
payment until the situation was A few weeks ago I checked my We must be vigilant to ensure
investigated. The investigation online billing and discovered that that we have equality of access.
sequel / autumn 2006
Geemarc Signing on mobiles
Screenphone Deafax has been trialling signing
A new screenphone for on mobile phones. Users have
use with relay services been developing one-handed
like Typetalk has been signing, since they need their
developed by Geemarc in other hand to hold the phone!
partnership with the RNID. display text in various font
Priced at £199 (ex VAT), sizes. It is straightforward to Parliament subtitled
the Geemarc Screenphone use and suitable for people A channel popular with many
looks and acts like a standard who want to voice their call, deaf people, BBC Parliament, is
amplified phone, but it also but read the reply of the changing from quarter-screen
has a reasonably-sized screen Typetalk operator. video format on Freeview to
(125mm by 80mm) which can www.geemarc.com full screen from November 13,
in time for the state opening of
Parliament two days later. BBC
WebCapTel Parliament on Freeview will be
In January 2007, Teletec plans to launch WebCapTel in the UK.
accompanied by a BBCi digital
It uses a combination of telephone and Internet connections to
interactive service, plus subtitles.
provide word-for-word, real-time text captions for telephone
conversations. The caller logs onto the website and enters their
Subtitling to increase
phone number and the number they want to call. WebCapTel
Ofcom says that the number of
connects to the caller, dials the other party and provides the text
TV channels providing access
of the conversation in a window on the caller’s Internet browser.
services (like subtitles) must
PCs, PDAs and smartphones can be used with the service.
increase from 74 to 91 in 2007.
The lowest target for digital
channels will then be set at 35%
Muses MP3 and phone loop of output.
The Muses 801 Bluetooth headset adaptor with a CL iLoop neck
loop allows hearing aid wearers to listen to music on personal
No news is ... no news
audio devices like MP3s without missing phone calls. When the
An ITV news bulletin was left
phone rings, the music is interrupted to allow voice calls to be
without subtitling earlier this year
taken. The headset adaptor is a portable wireless communication
when its live link to the subtitlers
device with inbuilt Bluetooth technology. Cost: £71.96 (ex VAT).
in Australia broke down. This
was the second such occurrence
and TAG has now received
assurances that a second line has
Can VoIP give better quality audio? been installed to prevent a re-
BT is running a trial with NDCS if both callers are using VoIP occurrence.
to see if high definition sound systems with the same or
can help people with a hearing similar coding and protocols. STOP PRESS
loss using BT Broadband Talk, Some of these new frequencies Ofcom has just published the
Softphone and Videophone. may benefit hearing impaired feasibility study of additional
Hi-definition Sound (Hi-dS) callers and the trial aims to telephone relay services. See
can be provided on VoIP (Voice explore the possibilities. www.ofcom.org.uk/research/
over Internet Protocol) systems NDCS is looking for more telecoms/reports/relayservices/
because of the high transmission volunteers for the trial –
rates – more information and contact Richard Vaughan
therefore wider frequency e email@example.com
ranges can be sent and received t 020 7490 8656 (v/t)
sequel / autumn 2006
Me & my noise-cancelling
headphones Jargon buster
Simon Pearse PSTN – the fixed-line phone
system that has been around for
Although I enjoy listening to
decades. PSTN = Public Switched
music on my iPod it can be
quite hard especially when I
travel to work in and around
VoIP – new phone system based
London because of the
on Internet technology. VoIP =
background noise. I have to
turn up the iPod volume very Voice over Internet Protocol.
loud to drown it out. And that
can't be a good thing for my 3G – advanced mobile telephone
residual hearing! When I was TAG member Simon Pearse with his
system, with 4G hot on its heels.
in the US, I saw a pair of Bose noise-cancelling headphones. They both cope well with picture,
noise-cancelling headphones. because of the noise-reduction video and multimedia. 3G =
Although they were quite effect. It’s a good idea to try third generation; 4G = fourth
expensive, they were about half before you buy in case they generation.
the UK price! So, I thought I’d don’t quite suit your situation.
try them. Noise-cancelling headphones
What I really like about them don't cut out all background
is that I can wear them with or sound, but they do mask a lot of
without my in-the-ear hearing the uncomfortable noise.
aids as they cover the whole At first the headphones took
ear. They might look a bit a bit of getting used to but I
strange, but they keep my ears really appreciate them now and
warm in the winter. they are very handy on trains,
Now I can lower the volume tubes and buses. When I take www.tagcomm.org.uk
of my iPod and can actually hear them off, I am amazed at how
more of the music. However, loud the background noise is. TAG contact
I do have to turn the volume I believe they give my ears a Ross Trotter
down on one of my hearing aids welcome break. TAG Secretary
36 Victoria Street
TAG's birthday prize Yorkshire, LS22 6RE
Fax: 01973 580956
TAG will be 21 years of age in 2007. Plans are afoot to celebrate Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
its achievements and, more importantly, to set an agenda for the
future. Sequel Distribution
As part of its activities, TAG will award a cash prize of £25 for
the best short article or opinion about telecoms, broadcasting Sequel is available on TAG’s website
or e-comms. If you would like to present your article in a format and in print. For print copies, contact:
other than text, please contact TAG to make arrangements. Ruth Myers
A lot has happened since 1986 when TAG was founded, so you Sequel
could tell us about how your life has changed in that time as a 70 Blacketts Wood Drive
result of technological advances or about your communications Chorleywood
hopes and aspirations for the future. Rickmansworth
Send your entry to Ross Trotter (contact details above right). Herts WD3 5QQ
The closing date for entries is 31 January 2007. Email: email@example.com
The views expressed in Sequel
sequel / autumn 2006 are those of individual authors.