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The Deaf Now Able To Talk On The Phone

15 July 2004

The Deaf Now Able To Talk On The Phone

The National Foundation for the Deaf (NFD) welcomes the introduction of a telephone relay service for New Zealanders who are deaf and/or hearing impaired.

The service being provided by US telco, Sprint, will enable the people who have a hearing impairment to receive calls via an operator who will type the caller’s words into the system.

The hearing impaired recipient will be able to read what is being said on a special text telephone and can either reply by speaking or by typing back their answer which will be relayed back by the operator.

Executive manager of the NFD, Marianne Schumacher, says this will be a boon to the 450,000 deaf and hearing impaired people around the country.

“The hearing sector has lobbied for many years for such a service and we are delighted that it has finally come to fruition.

“Talking on the telephone is something we all take for granted but it is not possible for the Deaf and many hearing impaired people. Lack of communication threatens the core qualities of life and the inability to participate in our society is one of the biggest hurdles that these people must overcome,” says Ms Schumacher.

The system, which is expected to cost around $2 million for the first financial year, will offer free local and national calls at least until call volumes increase, said a Ministry of Economic Development spokesman. "We may have to revisit the issue of free national calls if volumes increase dramatically." Sprint will build a call centre to handle the service in Pukekohe and the service will go live in November.


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