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Communications Improved For Disabled

Hon David Cunliffe
Minister of Communications

Hon Ruth Dyson
Minister for Disability Issues

Communications Improved For People With Disabilities

The Labour-led government is making some significant enhancements to the Telecommunications Relay Service, Communications Minister David Cunliffe and Disability Issues Minister Ruth Dyson announced today.

The changes follow a review of how well the relay service is meeting the needs of its users, whose monthly call minutes doubled in the first year.

"While the review found that there is already a very high level of satisfaction with the relay service, it also identified a number of things we can do to make the service even better," Mr Cunliffe said.

One key recommendation made by the review and now adopted is to make the trial "speech to speech" relay service run since August 2005 permanent. This is for speech-impaired users, and uses a specially-trained assistant to help make the user understood to the party they're calling.

Other recommendations accepted by ministers, include providing additional one-to-one assistance to relay service users to increase their confidence in making relay calls; improving the speed of user connection to the relay service, and the consistency of service from relay assistants; and wider public education to increase use and familiarisation with the relay service.

Users are already experiencing much improved answer times from the relay service. More than 85% of calls are answered within 15 seconds. Public awareness will be raised through a "Don't Hang Up on Relay" campaign providing information on the service on CD-ROM to 20,000 businesses in February 2007.

"As the review found, the relay service clearly helps to reduce social isolation and enable self reliance for users of the service. We believe these additional enhancements will have a significant impact on the quality of life of people with hearing and speech disabilities," Ms Dyson said.

The Government established the relay service in November 2004 to overcome the barriers that the Deaf, hearing-impaired, speech-impaired and deaf-blind face in accessing standard telephone services. The relay service works by using a relay assistant who serves as the "ears and voice" on phone calls.

The final report is available on the Ministry of Economic Development website at www.med.govt.nz/trs-review /.

Ends

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