Going round in circles! Why TypeTalk and not a BSL interpreter over the phone?

Dear deafauntie,
I would like your advice regarding two separate formal complaints I am making against a bank and an online store. In the space of one week, they both refused to co-operate with my request for a BSL interpreter over the phone, claiming they could only speak via TypeTalk.
I wrote to my local MP about this and he was exactly the same, saying he wasn’t aware of a law permitting the Deaf to use a BSL interpreter instead of TypeTalk. He then asked the Association of British Insurances to double-check, but they agreed with him. But TAG (Telecommunications Action Group) tell me that it is perfectly acceptable to use a BSL interpreter over the phone as the Equality laws are above the Data Protection Act. It made me think that Deaf people must have faced the same issue when trying to use a BSL interpreter over the phone.
I want to help Deaf people get better access with BSL interpretation for the necessary services. Many Deaf people are not able to use textphones or minicoms because at £300+ they are too expensive. Most use mobile email or text messaging but banks, insurance, tax offices etc. do not permit the use of text message or email – only TypeTalk!
I am so frustrated, and it feels as though nothing has changed. We must do something about this. Do you think we should be taking this to the courts on grounds of discrimination?

Deafauntie says:
We’ve really got to get to grips with this in the UK. Even if Equality laws say interpreters should be accepted on the phone, we still have to make it enforceable and at the moment it seems impossible. I wonder how speech impaired people manage? Only a test case – ie. bringing it before the courts – will resolve the problem for once and for all.
A perfect campaigning project for a large charity to take on! Penny Beschizza is our guest deafauntie this week. Over to you, Penny!

Deafauntie Penny says:
Many MPs consult with a Government expert to receive the same answer that the bank and online store have given you. I discussed your situation with someone very knowledgeable about banking matters. It is in only few cases, after PRIOR face to face agreement with a bank manager, the bank would allow a ‘third party’ – must be named, like an adult child of the person – to relay voice from the Deaf person’s BSL.
Nevertheless the situation you raised has brought valid concerns for any Deaf/BSL person who needs urgent contact to his/her own bank in the middle of nowhere, and requests BSL relay via one’s phone handset or a local computer. That would occur even without the available software for Text Relay or in a situation that the Deaf person needs to describe the situation (eg a lost card) in preferred BSL.
The need for a national VSR system on par with Text Relay is vital for Safeguarding – especially for young Deaf people, and older Deaf people. Gareth, your frustrations are fully understandable at a time telecommunications urgently need to embrace visual relay, BSL etc., to ensure security in a diverse society.
One point I would agree on making a complaint about is that clients who are unable to use the phone need to have that fact embedded in their service provider’s records, this cutting out hassle and increasing more co-operation from the call centre.

2 responses to “Going round in circles! Why TypeTalk and not a BSL interpreter over the phone?

  1. Jo Wainwright

    I work as a CSW in different situations. I also have Deaf friends. I asked an interpreter about this. The Information Commissioner’s Office (the ICO) gave a ruling in 2006 reported in the Tagcomm newsletter Sequel. It said that banks cannot quote the dataprotection act as a reason for refusing interpreted phone calls. It seems that banks choose to ignore Deaf. A bank would not get away with leaving a wheelchair customer outside on the pavement, saying we do not provide ramps, bring your own!

  2. It is frustrating that we can not call banks via BSL relay by Signvideo which does have strictly confidential policy like Text Relay. We have to use dated textphones instead.
    In the meantime I called Text Relay outreach about their web interface to make text calls online and they said in April 2014, they will be launching it. Finally and why so slow?

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