Save Captel Captioned Phones for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Australians

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On the 1st February 2020 due to changes to the National Relay Service contract to an International Call Centre, the Department of Communication have made a firm decision not to continue captioning of Captel Captioned Phones vital to Deaf and Hearing Impaired Australians.

I was born with a gene mutation that causes progressive deafness. Unknowingly most of my family including my daughters and grandchildren also have a hearing loss from inheriting this gene. I cannot hear on a normal phone without captioning, I do however have clear speech having grown up in the hearing world and becoming progressively deafened over the years. For the first time since losing my hearing in my 20s, the Captel Captioned Phone has allowed me to enjoy a normal phone conversation on a standard style phone with independence, equality and dignity as the other party to the phone conversation has no knowledge of my impairment.

I am not alone with this as 1 in 6 Australian people ( 3.5 million Australians) have some form of hearing loss. Hard of hearing phone users depend upon the CapTel Phone which uses the NRS service.

Should it be cancelled, we will be put at a severe disadvantage, will lose independence, and, our ability to communicate with the outside world. The average age of Captel users is 80years old and therefore the suggested alternatives by the Department of Communication are unsuitable for our sector who rely on the ease of use and familiarity of Captel Captioned Phones.

We love the ease of it being just like a normal phone and love the familiar features enabling us to easily and quickly contact emergency services, social arrangements and to make doctors appointments, amongst many other things.

At the moment with our Captel Captioned Phones we have the amazing features of Automatic connection to the Relay Officer, no contact with the Relay Officer, complete independence and privacy, in fact, no one need know we are even using captioning. The fast continual scrolling, direct dialing and receiving of calls aids inclusion and equality as it is just like a normal phone but with open captioning allowing it to be suitable for the front office as other staff need to pick up the same phone.

The Captioned Telephone, or CapTel, works like any other telephone with one important addition: it displays every word the caller says throughout the conversation. CapTel phone users can listen to the caller, and can also read the written captions in the CapTel’s display window.

Without the captioning service our Captel phones will not even be amplified. The phone operates on low volume mode without the captioning therefore creating an additional deficit for Captel users.

We see this decision as direct discrimination against our Hard of Hearing sector especially those born before the modern technology era. It is cruel, discriminatory and unjust to force users to transition backwards to the slower and more difficult methods to make a simple phone call all due to perceived " value for money " and to keep the budget for the NRS at a capped $22million.

Captel is the best telephony technology in the world for Deaf and Hearing Impaired Australians and should not be denied 


Yours Sincerely
Ms Christine O'Reilly
on behalf of the thousands of hearing impaired who rely on the Captel Captioned Phone and those who never even got the chance to acquire this amazing accessible telephone to Australia