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Deaf-friendly contact methods

It's important that deaf young people are able to contact you. Not all deaf people can or like to use the telephone, so you should consider alternative contact methods that are deaf-friendly such as text messaging, video calls or email.

Where phone calls are unavoidable, relay services can support deaf young people to communicate independently with hearing people on the phone. A relay service usually involves a third person whose role is to translate between you and the deaf person on a voice or video call. Commonly, relay services work between speech and text and between British Sign Language (BSL) and spoken language.

Because an extra person is involved, you may find conversations using a relay service seem slower than you’re used to. However, these services make it easier for deaf young people and adults to independently contact a wide range of people and organisations.

Text relay services

Text relay offers text-to-speech and speech-to-text translation services. For example, a deaf person could type what they want to say into a text relay service, and the operator would speak their message to you. When you reply, the operator will translate what you say into written text for the deaf person to read.

Relay UK is the national relay service and can be used on a landline phone, smartphone, tablet, computer or textphone. Find out how to use Relay UK with your customers or employees on the Relay UK for business webpage.

Video relay services

Video relay services offer sign language interpretation for video calls. During a video call, the deaf person signs to the interpreter, and the interpreter then speaks to you. When you reply, the interpreter will sign your reply to the deaf person.

Typically, you would access a video relay service using the webcam on your computer, tablet or smartphone – so it can be a very portable solution.

Video relay has become more popular recently, mainly due to more people now owning smartphones and tablets and the availability of affordable high-speed internet and mobile data services. Another advantage of video relay services is that the interpreter can now be located away from the user instead of being in the same room.

In the UK, there are a growing number of video relay services available, including: