Communications upgrade for hearing and speech impaired communities

  • Steven Joyce
  • Tariana Turia
Communications and Information Technology Disability Issues

The Deaf, deaf-blind, speech and hearing-impaired community will soon benefit from an expanded range of communication services, Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Steven Joyce, announced today.

New services to be progressively introduced from late this year will include captioned telephony, which allows people to read live captions of spoken phone conversations. People will also be able to contact the relay contact centre by mobile phone, and use a prepaid calling card to make international calls by Internet relay.

Mr Joyce says the services available to New Zealand’s hearing and speech-impaired communities will be amongst the best in the world.

“The Deaf, deaf-blind, speech and hearing-impaired community will have a full suite of telecommunication services that suits individual circumstances and needs.

“We are enhancing traditional relay services such as internet relay access, speech-to-speech, and video-assisted relay. We will provide captioned telephony and cellular messaging, and we’ll lead the world in video-assisted speech-to-speech relay services.

“We are committed to providing all New Zealanders with the benefits that new telecommunication technology and innovation can offer.”

Mrs Turia says the telecommunication relay services are vital for New Zealand’s Deaf, deaf-blind, speech and hearing-impaired community.

"Accessibility has been a huge priority for me - and for disabled persons and their whanau. The great thing about captioned telephony is that it will enable far better access for disabled persons to keep in touch with family, to assist with learning and open possibilities for employment; indeed to enhance a sense of whanau wellbeing.

It has been proven popular overseas in that it is much more natural and occurs in "real-time" which will make it much easier for people to phone people with hearing loss".
The new services have been negotiated through a new supplier agreement awarded to Sprint International New Zealand, and will be progressively introduced after the new agreement begins on 1 October 2011.