As part of our mission to make our network even more accessible to those with hearing impairments, we thought we'd take a minute to show you how Text Relay works...


With video sign language services and fully-subtitled Tech Team videos, Vodafone is on a mission to grow its range of accessibility services – the stuff that helps remove any barrier between us, our services and our customers who are hearing or visually impaired.


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To add to that, we thought we’d take a minute to showcase a new, free app from Next Generation Text Service (NGTS), which brings text relay to smartphones and tablets and gives anyone with difficulties communicating a means of carrying out a normal call. Read on for all the details…

Running the relay

To get the inside story on text relay past and present, we’ve been speaking to Michael Day at BT, the company that runs NGTS. “A text relay service is essentially a translation service between a consumer who types and reads their phone conversation, and any other phone user,” says Michael. “Calls are normally made through text relay by dialling the 1800X prefix before the phone number being called. It doesn’t matter if it’s the calling or the called party who is using text – the principle is the same.”

In the past, people who used this service would traditionally use a dedicated textphone, but that’s never been a very flexible solution. So now, things are changing…

“Text relay as a solution for consumers has existed in different guises since the late 1980s,” Michael explains. “In 1991 the standalone 24 hour UK text relay service called Typetalk was launched, and the Typetalk text relay service was integrated into the UK’s phone network in 2001 when BT launched TextDirect, which automated the call setup.



“The NGTS builds on TextDirect by adding the ability for consumers to migrate away from dedicate textphone to a wide range of readily available devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers running the NGT Lite app.”

And it’s the NGT Lite app that really brings real-time text communication into the 21st century. It’s a completely free tool for a host of compatible devices that does what textphones do, but in the palm of your hand wherever you are. “The introduction of this app means that text relay is now available to consumers on the move,” says Michael.

Read you like a book

So now we know where text relay has been, and where it’s going, it’s time to take a look at the kinds of things it can help with. Michael explains that there are three basic scenarios where text relay is really useful:

1. Type & Read
“When the text-user can’t speak or hear, they can use NGT Lite to type their words to the text relay assistant, who will then read them to the other party in the call. When the other person replies, the relay assistant types the reply which appears on the textphone or NGT Lite display.”

2. Speak & Read
“When the text-user can speak but can’t hear, they’ll speak direct to the other person without going through the relay assistant. Then when the other person replies, the relay assistant will type out the reply which appears on the textphone or NGT Lite display.”

3. Type & Hear
“When the text-user can’t speak but can hear, they’ll use a textphone or NGT Lite to type their words to the text relay assistant, who’ll read them to the other party in the call. When the other person replies, the text-user can hear what they say without going through the relay assistant.”

For the right person, the ability to do any of the above while out and about could be life-changing. If text relay sounds like it would be really useful to you or someone you know, you can download the NGT Lite app by clicking the link below:


text-relay-thumbDownload NGT Lite
If you’re keen to bring text relay to your smartphone or tablet, click through to find out exactly which devices are compatible, and how to install it on your phone.
Click here for all the details


If you have any questions or comments about accessibility at Vodafone, you can get in touch using the comments section at the bottom of this post.

More on accessibility… We’ve made sure that all of our new help videos on Vodafone UK’s YouTube channel are subtitled, so that people with hearing difficulties needn’t miss out on the latest tips and tricks. Click here to find out more.