Textphones(PDF 97kb, opens in new window)

Textphones(PDF 97kb, opens in new window)
Textphones
Textphones
This factsheet is part of our Equipment range. It is written for people with hearing loss who
cannot, or prefer not to, use telephones. If you are hearing and need to call someone who uses
a textphone, you may also find this factsheet useful. We use the term ‘people with hearing loss’
to refer to people with all levels of hearing loss, including people who are profoundly deaf.
Contents
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What is a textphone?
2
What is BT Text Relay?
3
How do I use BT Text Relay?
3
What if I need more help with my calls?
5
I’m thinking of buying a textphone. What should I look for?
5
Where can I get a textphone?
6
Can I use my computer to make textphone calls?
7
Can I get help with paying for equipment?
7
Where can I buy products that may help?
7
Where can I get further information?
8
If you’d like to receive this factsheet in large print, Braille or audio format, please contact our
helpline – see front page for contact details.
What is a textphone?
A textphone is a telephone device that lets you communicate through text instead of voice. It is
designed for people with hearing loss or speech problems, who cannot, or prefer not to, use the
telephone.
Textphones have keyboards, on which you type your message, and small display screens, on
which you read messages. When you’re connected to another textphone user, everything that
you type is sent, character by character, to their screen. This is called real-time text. You both
share the same screen, so you must take turns when typing.
Textphones connect to the telephone network and so plug into your telephone socket. They can
only connect directly to other textphones, but you can use a free service called BT Text Relay to
communicate with people who use voice telephones. We tell you more about this service on
page 3.
Textphones, Action on Hearing Loss Information, July 2013
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In the UK, companies often use the word ‘Minicom’ rather than ‘textphone’. In fact, Minicom is a
widely used brand of textphone.
What is BT Text Relay?
Text Relay is a free text-to-voice and voice-to-text relay service operated and funded by BT.
The service is run by relay operators. During a call, an operator will convert text from a
textphone into speech and speech from a telephone into text.
The service also improves the connectivity of textphones. Some textphones are not fully
compatible with each other: text can come out garbled or calls can be unexpectedly dropped.
This can be fixed by calling through BT Text Relay, which allows incompatible textphones to
‘talk’ to each other. A BT Text Relay operator will not be part of your phone call. We recommend
using the service when using a textphone in the UK.
How do I use BT Text Relay?
I have a textphone and I want to contact someone with a textphone
Using a textphone to make a text call is easy:
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Dial 180015 then the full phone number of the person you want to call, including the area
code.
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Once the other person has answered, anything they type will appear on your screen and
anything you type will appear on theirs.
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It’s important to take turns, otherwise the text will get jumbled up and be unreadable. Use
GA (which stands for ‘go ahead’) to tell the other person it is their turn (see box, below).
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When the call has finished, hang up.
Textphone abbreviations
People use abbreviations when making a textphone call, so it’s useful to learn them:
GA
‘Go ahead’ – this is used after the end of each typed message. It tells the other
person that you’ve finished and that it’s their turn to type a reply.
BIBI
‘Bye bye’ – this is usually followed by SK.
SK
‘Stop keying’ – this tells the other person that it’s the end of your conversation and
you want to end the call.
GA or SK
‘Go ahead or stop keying’ – allows the other person to choose whether to end the
call or carry on.
Textphones, Action on Hearing Loss Information, July 2013
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Calling the emergency services from a textphone
If you need emergency services – police, fire, ambulance, coastguard or mountain rescue – dial
18000 and you will be connected directly. 18000 is the textphone equivalent of the 999
emergency number.
I have a textphone and want to contact someone with a telephone
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Dial 18001 then the full phone number of the person you want to call, including the area
code.
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When the person you’re calling answers, they will receive an automated message
informing them that it is a BT Text Relay call and that there will be a short delay while a
Text Relay Assistant joins the call.
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Each person takes their turn to type or speak. When you've finished typing your
message, type GA, which stands for ‘go ahead’.
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Remember to allow enough time for the Text Relay Assistant to read your message to
the person you’re calling and type their response back to you.
I have a telephone and want to contact somebody with a textphone
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Dial 18002 then the full phone number of the person you want to call, including the area
code.
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If the person you’re calling picks up using a textphone, you will hear a recorded BT Text
Relay greeting message while you wait for a Text Relay Assistant to join the call: “Please
hold for the next available Text Relay Assistant.”
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Each person takes their turn to speak or type. When you’ve finished, say ‘go ahead’.
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Remember to allow enough time for the Text Relay Assistant to type your side of the
conversation to the person you’re calling and read their response back to you.
You cannot use BT Text Relay prefixes to call a UK textphone from abroad. Instead, hearing
callers need to dial the international number +44 151 494 2022 to reach a BT Text Relay
operator, who will connect the call.
Discounted calls with BT Text Relay
If you are a BT customer, you automatically get a discount for the text part of your BT Text
Relay calls for most destination numbers. This is because textphone calls take much longer
than voice calls. If you call a mobile number from a BT landline through BT Text Relay, you also
get a discount on those calls. BT Text Relay calls are itemised on your BT telephone bill.
You don’t get a discount for the voice part of calls, international or premium-rate calls.
Textphones, Action on Hearing Loss Information, July 2013
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Can I access automated call options?
Many companies have automated call options that give you a list of numbers to press to get to
the right department. This service can be difficult for BT Text Relay users to access because
the recorded messages don’t give the Text Relay Assistant enough time to type what is being
said. Also, the messages don’t leave enough time for the textphone user to make their choice.
If you experience this problem, try Text Relay Assist or call the BT Text Relay Customer Service
Team (see below). They can contact the company to tell them that their services aren’t
accessible to textphone users.
What if I need more help with my calls?
You can call Relay Assist. A Text Relay Assistant will answer and can help you to make your
calls. Please note that there is an additional charge for this service.
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If you have a hearing loss or are deafblind or have speech problems, and you use a
textphone, dial 0870 240 9598.
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If you are hearing and use a telephone, dial 0870 240 5152.
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A Text Relay Assistant will ask you who you would like to call and their telephone number.
You can either type or speak to them.
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The Text Relay Assistant will dial the number you want and will tell you if the number is
engaged or unavailable.
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If your call is connected, Text Relay Assistant will confirm you are speaking to the person
you have asked for and you can continue your conversation.
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At the end of the call, the Text Relay Assistant will end the call.
What if I have problems reading messages?
If your textphone settings do not match the settings of the textphone you’re connected to, you
may experience problems such as not seeing the other person’s text, the other person not
seeing your text or characters being displayed twice (so, for example, ‘hello’ becomes
‘hheelllloo’).
If you have problems like these, first make sure you use a BT Text Relay prefix when dialling
and that people ringing you also use the BT Text Relay prefix when calling you. If you still have
difficulties you can contact the BT Text Relay helpline.
I’m thinking of buying a textphone. What should I look for?
Check that you are happy with the screen and keyboard. These are the two parts you will use
most so they need to be easy and comfortable to use. Make sure the screen size and text size
are large enough for you. If you are likely to use the textphone in poor light conditions, make
Textphones, Action on Hearing Loss Information, July 2013
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sure it lights up (either an LED screen or backlit screen). We list other features that may be
available below.
Answering facility
Many textphones have a built-in answering facility that records text messages when you aren’t
there.
Automatic BT Text Relay prefix dial
Some textphones can be set to dial 18001 automatically so you don’t have to do it yourself.
Message storage
Some textphones can store messages, so if you regularly send the same message, you don’t
have to type it in each time. If you have a long message to send during a call, you can also type
this into the textphone before the call and use it later.
Number storage
Some textphones let you store frequently used names and telephone numbers.
Voice announcer
A voice announcer is a pre-recorded or computer-generated spoken message, which tells a
hearing caller that they need to use a textphone.
Voice carry over (VCO)
VCO allows you to use your voice in a call but receive the answers in text. There is a phone
designed for VCO called ScreenPhone, but some textphones support VCO as well. VCO allows
you to speak in calls but uses BT Text Relay to convert the other person’s speech into text.
Where can I get a textphone?
We sell a range of textphones and there are many other suppliers. People who are deaf do not
normally have to pay VAT when buying a textphone. However, this is not automatic. You will
have to fill in a VAT exemption form first, which you should be able to get from the textphone
supplier.
You may be able to get help with the cost of a textphone for work or home use (see below).
Textphones, Action on Hearing Loss Information, July 2013
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Can I use my computer to make textphone calls?
Yes. There is software available that allows you to use your computer as a textphone. This
software is different than messaging software such as MSN Messager and Facebook Message,
as you can access phone numbers with them. We recommend My Friend, which is also
available for smartphones. For more information, please contact our helpline – see front page
for details.
Can I get help with paying for equipment?
You may be able to get help to pay for equipment. Contact our helpline for more information
about the following:

The Access to Work scheme may help to pay for equipment you need at work or for
interviews.
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The Equality Act 2010 may require public service providers, such as hospitals and GP
surgeries, to provide equipment. See our factsheet The Equality Act 2010 – your rights when
using services.
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Social services may help to pay for or provide equipment. For more information, contact your
social worker or your local social services department. Read our factsheet Social services
for adults who are deaf.
Where can I buy products that may help?
Action on Hearing Loss
We sell a range of equipment for people with hearing loss and tinnitus. You can visit our online
shop or request a copy of our products catalogue, Solutions, by contacting us directly.
1 Haddonbrook Business Centre, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YX
Telephone 01733 361199
Textphone 01733 238020
Fax 01733 361161
solutions@hearingloss.org.uk
www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/shop
Ricability
A charity providing independent information to disabled and older consumers.
Unit G03, The Wenlock Business Centre, 50-52 Wharf Road, London N1 7EU
Telephone 020 7427 2460
Textphone 020 7427 2469
mail@ricability.org.uk
www.ricability.org.uk
Fax 020 7427 2468
Direct link to textphone suppliers:
www.ricability.org.uk/consumer_reports/at_home/buying_a_textphone/suppliers/
Textphones, Action on Hearing Loss Information, July 2013
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Where can I get further information?
Action on Hearing Loss
We produce a wide range of information covering many aspects of hearing loss and tinnitus.
You may find some of the other factsheets in our ‘Equipment’ range useful, along with our
leaflet Choosing products to help with your hearing loss. Contact our helpline (see front page) to
find out more and to order free copies.
Alternatively, you can download our factsheets and leaflets for free from our website; visit
www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/factsheets
BT Text Relay Customer Support
PO Box 284, Liverpool L69 3UZ
Helpline 0800 7311 888
Textphone 0800 500 888
helpline@textrelay.org
www.textrelay.org
We welcome your feedback
If you have any comments or suggestions relating to this factsheet, please email
reviewpanel@hearingloss.org
Action on Hearing Loss Information, July 2013
This information will be reviewed and updated in July 2014
The Royal National Institute for Deaf People. Registered Office: 19-23 Featherstone Street, London EC1Y 8SL.
A company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales No. 454169, Registered Charity Numbers 207720 (England and Wales) and
SC038926 (Scotland).
Textphones, Action on Hearing Loss Information, July 2013
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