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New telephone service will benefit Deaf people

New telephone service will benefit Deaf people

A new telephone service for people who are Deaf, or who have speech or hearing impairments, marks a technological revolution for New Zealanders, Associate Minister of Communications David Cunliffe and Disability Issues Minister Ruth Dyson said today.

The service, NZ Relay, will enable people who are Deaf or who have speech or hearing impairments to participate in telephone conversations using a textphone. A trained call centre operator will convert typed text into speech for a person at the other end of the call, and vice versa.

Launching New Zealand Relay at Parliament, David Cunliffe said it had been established as a Telecommunications Service Obligation (TSO), with funding through a levy on liable telecommunications service providers.

"The TSO framework lets us make services available to meet needs that are neglected in the marketplace. It promotes inclusiveness by facilitating affordable access to basic telecommunications services," David Cunliffe said.

Ruth Dyson said a significant number of New Zealanders had previously been excluded from the benefits of instant telephone communication.

"We expect most of the estimated 7000 New Zealanders who are Deaf or have a significant hearing or speech impairment will potentially want to make use of the relay service. It will give them more independence, access to business and employment opportunities, greater ability to participate in our communities and vital access to services in an emergency," Ruth Dyson said.

Sprint New Zealand has been appointed to supply the service nationwide and has set up a call centre in Auckland.

Several textphone models will be available to meet a range of user requirements for a rental charge of $15 (incl GST) a month. The charge will be waived for people who meet the income threshold for the Community Services Card.


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