What services must telephone companies provide to customers with disabilities?
Under Ofcom rules, telephone companies (fixed and mobile) that provide voice telephone services are obliged to provide a number of services for customers with disabilities.
- Access to an approved text relay service for people who are deaf or speech-impaired – this service offers live text-to-speech and speech-to-text translation services. To use this service from a fixed line you need a textphone. To use this service from a mobile phone you should ask your provider how the service is implemented, as providers vary. Vodafone uses an integrated terminal, whereas 3, Orange, O2 and T-mobile require a separate portable keyboard. To ensure that users receive a good service, Ofcom has agreed minimum standards for the relay service.
- Free directory enquiries and onward connection – this service is available for users unable to use a printed directory – usually people who are blind or with visual difficulties, but also people with dexterity problems who cannot lift the directory or turn the pages. The service is PIN-protected and is accessed by dialling 195.
- Priority fault repair – this service is available to disabled customers who need urgent repair and is charged at standard rates.
- Nominated third-party scheme – this service enables nominated persons to act on the behalf of another person who is unable to look after their own affairs – perhaps because they are in hospital for a long stay. It is comparable to a limited power of attorney and means that someone else can manage a customer’s phone bills.
- Bills and contracts in alternative formats – this service provides bills and contracts in alternative formats for people who have difficulty reading regular print. The service is available to people who are blind or visually impaired, , but also those with cognitive difficulties. Bills can be produced in formats such as large print, braille or audio.
Contact your service provider if you would like to take advantage of any of these services.