DeafHear Regional News

Regional News

The following article will appear in the upcoming edition of DeafHear Matters.
It provides information on ComReg proposals and important data on text relay services.

ComReg Consultation on Electronic Communications

DeafHear.ie ComReg is carrying out a public consultation on how to ensure equivalence in access to telecommunication services for people with disabilities 2103

OPEN MEETING

Com Reg Consultation on Electronic Communications

Wednesday 28th August

3.00pm – 4.30pm
Cabragh Hall, DVI (Deaf Village Ireland)

More Information here...

 

FEEDBACK FORM

DeafHear.ie ComReg is carrying out a public consultation on how to ensure equivalence in access to telecommunication services for people with disabilities 2103To fill in a short feedback form,
please click here.

The closing date for feedback form is
Thursday September 5th 2013!

 

This edition of Access All Areas will focus on a significant consultation taking place as we go to print. ComReg are conducting a consultation on ‘proposed measures to ensure equivalence in access and choice‚ to electronic communications for people with disabilities. Under an EU Directive, ComReg is responsible for ensuring that Deaf and Hard of Hearing people have equivalent access to electronic communications, except where it is impractical or extremely expensive to do so. Electronic communications includes not just telephones and mobile phones, but also broadband services, and cable and satellite TV services*. This is an important consultation for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people as access to electronic communications is a critical factor in supporting independence and social participation in society

(*ComReg is only responsible for ensuring access to TV cable and satellite networks. It is not responsible for programme content or the accessibility of TV programmes: this is the responsibility of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland).

ComReg Recommendations

As part of the consultation process, ComReg published a 95 page document in which it outlined some recommendations which it is considering implementing. The various recommendations cover issues such as accessible billing, directory enquiries and complaints. Of particular interest to Deaf and Hard of Hearing people are recommendations in realtion to text top-ups for pre–pay mobile phones and facilities to test ‘terminal equipment’.

Text Top-ups

ComReg are proposing that every phone company providing pre–pay mobile phones must provide a facility for the customer to top–up via SMS. Being able to top–up using SMS would mean that Deaf and Hard of Hearing people (and hearing people!) would be able to apply vouchers via text message, rather than via a voice call. No longer would a Deaf person have to ask a family member (or shop assistant) to apply credit to their phone!

Buying Phones

It has always been a major problem for people who are hearing aid or cochlear implant users to buy a new phone. Most shops that sell phones do not allow customers to try out the phone before buying it. Some phones may not be compatible with the person’s particular aids or implants. However, the person will only discover this when they bring the phone home and try it out! To make matters worse, most retailers have a returns policy that will not allow the customer to return the phone once it has been opened!

In order to address this problem ComReg are proposing that all retailers selling phones and other terminal equipment must allow customers who use hearing aids or cochlear implants to try out the equipment in the shop. This is a welcome proposal that, if implemented, would be helpful to many Deaf and Hard of Hearing people.

Text Relay Services (TRS)

Electronic communications also include Text Relay Services (TRS), but regrettably, ComReg say that they are ‘not minded’ at this time to propose measures to extend TRS. ComReg say that their view is that this should be considered at a later date. However, DeafHear is of the view that this should be considered as a matter of urgency!

Text Relay Services are a vital social lifeline for people who cannot make voice calls, which includes many people who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and also people with speech difficulties. TRS services are available in most developed countries, and was introduced to Ireland about 20 years ago. In Ireland, the TRS is provided by Eircom as part of the Universal Service Obligations regulated by ComReg. TRS enables a person using a minicom phone to contact another person via a relay operator, who converts voice to text and vice versa (see Figure 1). A key aspect of TRS is that it provides access to live interaction/conversation, which text, email or fax do not do.


How Irish Text Relay Service Works

 
Deaf/Hard of Hearing Caller
Using Minicom
  Hearing Caller
Using Telephone
(Text Only)   (Voice Only)
  down   up  
  Using Minicom and Telephone
Relay Operator
(Based in Call Centre)
 
     

At present, TRS is used very little in Ireland, principally because it has not changed in 20 years! Unlike other countries such as the UK, Ireland’s TRS still can only be accessed using a minicom phone attached to a landline! In the UK, people can contact their TRS via text using a mobile phone, and from April next year they can do so using other devices such as laptops and iphones. At its peak, the TRS in Ireland was handling a few hundred calls per week – but many people stopped using it because there were long delays, minicoms were expensive to buy, and the introduction of mobile phones and text provided a cheaper and more mobile alternative.

DeafHear.ie ComReg is carrying out a public consultation on how to ensure equivalence in access to telecommunication services for people with disabilities 2103

DeafHear.ie ComReg is carrying out a public consultation on how to ensure equivalence in access to telecommunication services for people with disabilities 2103To fill in a short feedback form,
please click here.

The closing date for feedback form is
Thursday September 5th 2013!

However, text messaging is not the same as TRS! Firstly, many services do not provide a text number to contact them, and even if they do, the response is seldom immediate, as it would be for a voice call. So, if you are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and you need to make an appointment with your GP… or you want to cancel an appointment with your bank manager, access to a TRS would enable you to book or reschedule an appointment in realtime!

The evidence suggests that there is a real need for this service! Table 1 compares the level of usage of TRS in Ireland and the UK. In the UK the TRS there handles 33,000 calls per week, and has 11,000 regular users (source Ofcom 2012). In Ireland, the present TRS handles less than 20 calls a week, and has only a handful of regular users. If an equivalent TRS was available in Ireland, it could expect to handle over 2,000 calls per week and have 700–800 regular users! In other words, the Irish TRS operates at a usage level less than 1% of its UK counterpart. As a result Deaf and Hard of Hearing people in Ireland experience thousands of lost opportunities for equivalent social inclusion every week! Over a one year period, Deaf and Hard of Hearing people in Ireland lose out on over 100,000 opportunities for social contact and inclusion due to the absence of a modern TRS.


Table 1: Text Relay Services
A UK–Ireland Comparison 2013

  No. of Calls per Week No. of Regular Hours
UK 33,000 11,000
Ireland < 20 < 10
*The level of Text Relay Service usage per head of population in Ireland is less than 1% of the level of usage in the UK.

The introduction of a modernised Text Relay Service in Ireland as soon as possible is a top priority for DeafHear. It has the potential to significantly enhance individuals’ independence and increase the social participation of many Deaf and Hard of Hearing people. There are over 100,000 reasons every year as to why this needs to happen.

What can you do?

ComReg have extended the consultation date to September 6th. You can submit your views directly to ComReg more information here: [www.comreg.ie]
You can complete the short form and DeafHear will include your views in its submission, or you can book a place to attend an open meeting in DVI on Wednesday August 29th 2013.

To fill in a short feedback form, please click here DeafHear.ie ComReg is carrying out a public consultation on how to ensure equivalence in access to telecommunication services for people with disabilities 2103

 

    


 

more...Hearing loss costs an estimated €2.2bn every year in Ireland.

 

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