New Generation Text: Farewell to telephone hang-ups

This is a note to describe BT’s marvellous device which makes it possible for deaf people to use the phone. I am quite severely deaf, and had avoided telephoning for years, relying on emails and text – but there are times when a phone call is best: like when you want an immediate reply. But I went to a BT meeting last week, and that has all changed.

The service has been around for a while now, for people to use at home, or in the office – but in one place. What is extremely crafty is that our friends at BT have developed a stunning update, which enables it to be used on the move: even on a smartphone, for example, with no other assistance: no cables, no chunky equipment, just a device with a wifi connection.

For example:

Me, speaking on my mobile: “Hi Colin, do you fancy a beer after work?”

Colin: “Good thinking. Usual place, 6.00?”

Me: “Cool. First one there gets a pint in.”

The sort of conversation which non-deaf people don’t think twice about, but which is a huge problem, or impossible, for some of us. You can’t lip read a telephone call.

The secret is voice recognition. Before dialling a number, you add the number 18001, which links you to the text service. Then you dial, and the call is picked up by a middleman – a relay assistant as they call them. When the phone is answered at the other end, the assistant introduces himself and explains that the call is from a deaf person. Your contact replies, and – here is the clever bit – the reply is immediately translated as text on your phone screen. You answer as normal, and the conversation proceeds. Magic.

My example shows what is probably the most used option: a deaf person telephoning someone who can hear. But there are four modes, one of which should meet most people’s needs, including the option of reversing this. It’s even possible for those who cannot speak to use the system. At the meeting I attended, which was really a training session, there were several people with this disability, and when we went into groups and used the system, I could see that they were getting as much benefit from it as we who had only hearing difficulties.

NGT Lite, as the clever people at BT call the device, is very easy to use. It’s an app, which you download onto your phone or tablet in the usual way. Then to use it for the first time, you ‘introduce’ your phone number to the system, and then it is very easy to use.

Read more on www.ngts.org.uk. Give it a try. You’ll love it.

Janet Caldwell (Sense Digital Champion for Online Today), Cornwall

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