HC Deb 29 October 2001 vol 373 cc502-3W
Kate Hoey

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what assessment she has made of the difficulties faced by the deaf population with regard to the use of public telephone kiosks, with special reference to the 999 emergency telephone service; and what plans she has to look at improvements which could be made. [9875]

Mr. Alexander

The regulation of telecoms operators is the responsibility of Oftel. Oftel is working with those operators that provide public call box services, such as British Telecom, and with disabled groups to ensure that more public text phones are made available to enable deaf people to have improved access to telecoms services, including 999 services. Oftel has also implemented regulations which require other operators of public call boxes to offer a text relay service. All textphones at public call boxes provide access to the emergency services through the dialling of a dedicated access code. The text is then relayed on to the emergency services. BT has installed 1,950 public textphones at airports, railway stations and motorway service centres too. These offer BT's newly launched text relay services called 'TextDirect'. A hearing customer will now be able to directly dial a customer who is deaf by using an access code and vice versa.