“Hi Gary…”, the friendly sounding email greeted me. ” It’s been nice knowing you, but it’s adios. We did warn you, but you ignored us! As a result we have kicked you out! Soz about that, but if you wanna come back, just re-register all over again. Cos you know, we know you just got oodles of time to waste on registering online. And what’s more, you’re Deaf, and its our job to make your life as complicated as it possibly can be. See ya online soon, or not!
The No Help Desk, National Relay Service
Of course, the National Relay Service didn’t write that to me, but they may as well have. It’s true they greeted me at the start with Hi! They then proceeded to deregister me because I had not responded to them as to whether I wanted to remain registered or not. They did actually tell me I could re-register again if I wanted to, but that’s really not the point.
For you hearing people reading this for the first time, The National Relay Service is a service that Deaf people use to access the phone. In years gone by they used what was called a Teletypwriter (TTY). This was a device where you could type messages to another person who had a TTY via the phone line. What the Government did in 1995 was set up a new system where Deaf people could phone a hearing person who didn’t have a TTY through the National Relay Service . A Hearing Relay Officer would then relay what you typed to the hearing person at the other end and type out what the hearing person responded..
For three decades or so this was primarily the way that Deaf people called hearing people. It’s how they ordered their Pizza or got themselves a taxi. The more hardy, like me, would call girls they had met in the pub and try to charm them through the Relay Officer. The Relay Service was a godsend and, I am sure, even a life saver for many.
Over time, technology lessened our reliance on the Relay Service. First it was SMS, then email, then chat services like Messenger. Eventually services like Skype gave unapparelled visual communication access for Deaf people and led to the establishment of video relay service for people that used Auslan and wanted to make phone calls through Auslan interpreters.
But as technology and the internet took over, the need for the Relay Service became less. But there was and still is always a need for the service for many Deaf people. Like if your car broke down and you needed a tow. You could use Internet Relay Service to call for a tow and a rescue. But the use of the Relay Service for many of us has became very sporadic indeed. Nevertheless, it is often still needed.
The National Relay Service changed hands a few years ago. The new provider insisted on users having to register. Because you know, life is just too easy for Deaf people. You can just imagine the executives in their offices saying to each other… “These Deafies, they have it all on a platter. Endless supplies of interpreters. Open captioned movies three times a year. Hospitals that meet their every communication need and access to education and employment wherever they go.” Clearly the executives decided Deafies had to be brought down a wrung or two. So they came up with the concept of registering for the Relay Service, true story. And just to make it a little more difficult they decided to kick Deafies out sometimes and make them reregister.
I jest, but it really isn’t funny. Why, why, why – should Deaf people have to register at all? Whereas hearing people can call any time and anywhere, Deaf people have to jump through hoops. And then whatever device they use – Phone, iPad, laptop, work laptop etc- they have to sign into each and every one of those devices to access the Relay Service. And don’t forget your password, whatever you do, because otherwise you will have to sign into all those devices all over again after you reset it.
Too add insult to injury, you have to register for a service that often does not answer. It often takes many minutes to connect. It often drops out mid conversation. It’s a shambles of a service now. A far cry from the wonderful and efficient service it was when it was introduced.
And what if you re a person that doesn’t check your personal Gmail too often. The National Relay Service has sent you an email saying to get in touch or you will be deregistered. You don’t see it, you get deregistered., You’re driving in the country and your car breaks down. You try to use the Relay Service to call for help but cant because, unbeknown to you, you have been deregistered because you didn’t reply to the email. Or the power goes off at home and you need an electrician. Or you need to call your elderly mother to see if she is alright and she isn’t tech savvy. I bet you our dear friends at the National Relay Service didn’t think of these scenarios when they came up with this ridiculous and grossly unfair idea of registration.
For me, it doesn’t matter anymore. I have my captioned mobile. I can call anyone at any time without the need for a third person. But I have the privilege of speech. Many Deaf people do not, let alone people with a speech impediment that also use the Relay Service. What of these people? Having to register and then running the risk of being unknowingly deregistered is just not fair.
As for me… It’s farewell from me National Relay Service. You have destroyed a once proud and essential service. I might not need you anymore but just remember, many people still do. LIFT YOUR GAME.
2 thoughts on “And It’s Farewell From Me ..”
So very sad to read this.
Yes I was attempting to use the NRS to call 000 for an ambulance for my mother having chest pains. They didn’t respond to my calls and messages in this time critical emergency where I needed help asap. AND then when they did finally respond I sent a message telling them forget it and terminate the call as Convo already had emergency service on the line for me.
Thank God for Convo! It’s goodbye from me to the NRS. Convo is the definite GO-TO from now on. I’ll take the ‘interpreter in my pocket’ Convo app over the crappy NRS serious lack of service provision and antiquated rubbish.