VoIP and deaf people

Document Sample
VoIP and deaf people Powered By Docstoc

                   issue 19 / autumn 2006           

 Emerging technology

VoIP and deaf people
When VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) was planned to replace
the conventional PSTN telephone system in Simon Pearse's
                                                                               TAG’s newsletter
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
                                                                       IN BRIEF

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                    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.
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
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
                                                                           Telephone Network.
    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
    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:
    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:
                                                                            The views expressed in Sequel
sequel / autumn 2006                                                        are those of individual authors.