Ofcom requires communications providers (fixed and mobile) to provide a range of services designed to benefit disabled customers, including:
Access to an approved 'next generation' text relay service for calls to and from people who are hearing- or speech-impaired, with special tariffs to compensate disabled customers for the additional time taken by these calls. Next generation text relay can be accessed from mainstream equipment such as PCs, tablets and smartphones as well as from textphones. To find out more about this service, visit www.ngts.org.uk or see Ofcom's consumer guide here.
Access to emergency SMS (mobile only) for people who cannot make a voice call and who need to contact the emergency services. To use this service, text ‘register’ to 999 or 112. Registration only takes around a minute, so it is possible to register in an emergency, but advance registration is strongly recommended. For more information visit http://www.emergencysms.org.uk/.
Free directory enquiries for consumers who are unable to use a printed directory because of a disability, with through-connection of calls.
Priority fault repair (fixed line only) for customers who depend on the telephone because of ill-health or disability and have an urgent need for a repair.
Third-party bill management, enabling a nominated friend or relative to act on behalf of someone who needs help to manage their affairs.
Bills and contracts in formats such as large print and Braille on request.
You need to register in advance for some of these services - please contact your communications provider for information about how to do this.
The UK Regulators Network (UKRN) has also published advice on the extra help available to older, ill, or disabled people when using services such as gas, electricity, water, phones and public transport.
Communications providers are required to publicise the availability of services for disabled people. Ofcom has carried out research into how well communications providers are doing this. Ofcom discussed the findings of this research with the communications providers concerned and required them to produce detailed plans setting out how they will improve the situation. We also asked for copies of the training and reference materials that are provided to call handlers to inform them about these services.