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ISPs Must Provide Emergency Video Service to Deaf Users: Ofcom

ISPs Must Provide Emergency Video Service to Deaf Users: Ofcom

UK telecom and broadcasting regulator, Ofcom has mandated new requirements for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and phone companies to provide additional services for users with special needs.

These include companies in the sector—even those not typically providing telephony services to offer an emergency video relay service that users with hearing or speech impairments can rely on.

Although these requirements are may impose new challenges on telecoms, their goal is to provide equivalent access to emergency services for British Sign Language (BSL) users.

Internet and phone providers must have emergency video service 

UK Government’s regulator for TV, internet, and communications, Office of Communications (Ofcom) has mandated new requirements for telecom companies and internet providers to offer an emergency video relay service for deaf users.

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“Video relay services are a way of enabling people who use British Sign Language (BSL) to communicate effectively with people who don’t use BSL.”

“The deaf BSL user makes a video call using a connected device to call an interpreter in a call centre.”

“The interpreter translates what the deaf user is signing into spoken English for the hearing person to hear, and signs what the hearing person is saying to the deaf user,” said Ofcom in a statement this week.

Ofcom’s requirements come after the measures were initially proposed in 2019, as a part of amending the European Electronic Communications Code.

The emergency video service will provide equivalent access to emergency services, such as 999, to users with hearing or speech impairments.

Prior to these changes being proposed, users with impairments have traditionally relied on sending text messages to 999, which requires an understanding of written English rather than sign language.

As with any emergency services, the video relay service would be free for users.

The deadline for telecom companies to be compliant with these rules, and establish the emergency video service is June 17th, 2022.

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Companies may choose to offer the service autonomously or in partnership with third-party, Ofcom-approved vendors.

Ofcom’s detailed guidance and rules for companies are available in a 67-page document.

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