Doug Abbott's specialised voice-to-text phone service will be cut off in January.
Doug Abbott's specialised voice-to-text phone service will be cut off in January.

Cuts to phone captioning service leaving residents anxious

RESIDENTS living with hearing loss problems have been left with concerns after the Federal Government made a decision earlier this year that resulted in the axing of a dedicated telephone caption relay service.

Bellbird Park man Doug Abbott is one of thousands who has relied on the service CapTel when communicating with friends and family both in Australia and overseas.

“I have a hearing defect and sometimes if someone has a squeaky voice, I’ve got difficulty hearing what they’re saying,” he said.

The telephone device displays the words being spoken on the other end of the line as live text on a small screen for Mr Abbott to read.

“As long as I’ve got this, I can hear exactly what they’re saying. So, take this away and I don’t know what they’re going to do,” he said.

The handset will no longer be available after January as it’s not supported by the new provider for the National Relay Service (NRS), Concentrix.

According to the Department of Communication and the Arts website the contract maintains current funding levels for the NRS at $22 million per year.

A department spokesman said caption relay would still be available, with one person making the call and the other reading the text, but NRS users who prefer to speak their side of the conversation and cannot use a tablet, computer or smartphone could use the NRS Speak and Read TTY option.

This alternative requires the user to obtain a new handset through Optus or Telstra and any incoming callers would need to first ring a third party number and provide a relay officer with the number they wish to call.

“Other mainstream communications options supported by captioning have also developed and become more widely available in recent years. These include apps such as Skype, instant messaging, email and texting,” a department spokesman said.

Many users like Mr Abbott don’t always have access to the internet.

“We’re overridden. We’re told virtually get lost, you’re old, get wised up. It’s not good enough, Mr Abbott said.

A department spokesperson said it is open to working with the owners of Captel Technology to allow a longer transition period.