TTY or NRS

image of superprint TTY in use

For many years, phone communication with your customers who were deaf or had a hearing or speech impairment was only possible using a special textphone called a TTY.

The customer would use their TTY to call a dedicated phone number at your organisation. One of your staff would communicate with the customer by reading their words on the screen of the TTY in your office and typing in a response.

If you still:

  • have a TTY in your contact centre or reception area, and
  • advertise this TTY number on your website or publications

you should consider whether it is still serving your customers' needs.

There is an alternative

Instead of the dedicated TTY, you can now rely on the National Relay Service for all calls to and from customers who are deaf or have hearing or speech impairments. You will most likely already be receiving calls through the NRS whether or not you are maintaining a TTY.

The NRS is an Australian Government initiative that uses relay officers as the central link in every phone call, relaying exactly what is said or typed. It provides eight different relay options depending on the NRS user's needs and abilities. It is not restricted to text alone and is more flexible than dedicated TTY-to-TTY calls because at least one party to the call can use an ordinary phone.

Is your dedicated TTY functional?

You should consider whether you are offering a truly functional TTY service for customers with hearing or speech impairments if:

  • your TTY is not always answered
  • the conversation is not always handled well because few staff are trained to take calls on the TTY
  • your advertised TTY line is no longer connected
  • the TTY is located in an area where the staff member answering it cannot provide all the information being requested, or deliver the whole range of services required.

Incoming calls to your dedicated TTY line have to be dealt with by an employee who knows how to use a TTY and can't be easily transferred to the staff member with the appropriate knowledge or expertise. For example, a customer might want to discuss the details of a building permit, but the staff member with the particular expertise in that area is not on the same floor as your TTY.

Your organisation has two options:

  • retain your dedicated TTY as well as receive calls through the NRS
  • make a transition to using the NRS alone.

Option 1: Retain your TTY

Some TTY users - in particular in the deaf community - may prefer to communicate directly through a dedicated TTY at your organisation. These customers may feel that having access to a direct TTY line without using a relay officer as an intermediary serves them best.

However, choosing to retain your TTY requires a commitment to a functional TTY service. This includes having trained staff to operate the TTY and ensuring customers contacting you by TTY are able to access the same information, people and services as those calling you by ordinary phone. It is also important to advertise your TTY number across all your printed materials and on your website.

If you do decide to retain your TTY number, it is very likely you will also receive calls through the NRS. This means you will also need to ensure you are prepared for NRS calls - that is, ensure your organisation is Relay Service friendly.

Option 2: Make the transition to the NRS alone

Choosing to use the NRS for all calls to and from customers with hearing or speech impairments has these benefits:

  • you don't need a separate TTY line - all calls from deaf, hearing-impaired and speech-impaired customers will be relayed to you through the NRS on your regular landline or mobile phone.
  • you don't need TTY-trained staff - your staff will use their regular phone to take calls from or make calls to NRS users
  • the extra NRS service doesn't cost you anything - inbound calls are free and outbound calls are charged at about the cost of a local call
  • it provides more options than text-only TTY-to-TTY calls for your customers to communicate with you by phone. Some NRS users, for example, will speak to you directly even though they can't hear and therefore need to read your responses which are typed to them by the relay officer.

Checklist of benefits for each option

 

Benefit My business will keep a dedicated TTY line
My business will receive and make calls through the NRS only

No need for separate phone line

You will need to maintain a separate line 

You won't need a separate line

Customer can easily talk with person in your organisation who has content knowledge to answer the query or provide best service

No

 

Yes 

No need for special staff training on using a TTY

You will need to train staff to use the TTY

You won't need to train staff to use a TTY

However your contact staff will still need training on how to receive and make relay calls using their standard phone

Your organisation needs to keep one option only

Calls will still be received through the NRS whether or not you have the TTY line. Therefore you will need to service both options 

Yes 

 

Can be used for direct conversation (by text) without a relay officer

Yes 

No

Can be used by any hearing-impaired or speech-impaired customer who uses internet relay

Yes 

Yes  

Can be used by speech-impaired customers who use an ordinary phone

No

Yes  

 

Making the change to the NRS

If you choose option 2 and make the transition from a dedicated TTY to using the National Relay Service you will need to carry out two main tasks. These should occur at the same time.

Task A: Phase out your TTY line

You will need to determine your own internal process for phasing out your TTY line in a seamless manner. You should consider the following:

1          Allocate a timeframe

It is important to allocate a reasonable timeframe to the process of removing your TTY line. Any customers who still use TTYs can be made aware of the date from which the TTY line will no longer be operating and give them an opportunity to adjust to the changes. You may have a small number of TTY-using customers who may not have used the National Relay Service before and may need time to become familiar with it. By allowing adequate time to this process, you ensure no customer is left behind.

2          Communicate the changes internally

Phasing out your TTY line may have impacts on a wide range of staff in the organisation. Consider who needs to know about the changes and arrange a process of internal communication to ensure all relevant staff are informed.

3          Organise your auto-answer message

When customers call the TTY line that will cease on a given date, set the TTY to deliver an ‘auto-answer message'. This is a feature of the TTY in which a text message can be transmitted from your TTY to the TTY of the caller, advising them of the changes to your phone system. A sample auto-answer message might be:

"Thank you for calling [your business name]. This TTY will not be available after [date line is to be disconnected] OR This TTY is no longer in use. Call us via the National Relay Service: dial 133 677 and ask for [your call centre or switchboard number].

Please do not re-direct calls from your TTY directly to the NRS. For further assistance in setting up your auto-answer message, please contact the NRS Helpdesk on 1800 555 660 or email helpdesk@relayservice.com.au.

4          Update your online and print materials

Make sure your advertising, website, stationery and other publications are updated in line with your new contact information. This ensures that any deaf, hearing-impaired or speech-impaired customers are able to contact your organisation. Where possible, include the NRS website address http://www.relayservice.gov.au/ to ensure your customers have all the information they need to contact you. 

5         Disconnect the TTY

For instructions on disconnecting and disposing of your TTY, please contact the TTY distributor Printacall direct on 02 9809 2392 or visit their website.

6         Disconnect the number  

Contact your phone-line provider to have the specific TTY number disconnected or reallocated.

7        Give us a call  

Let us know what service you choose to provide to your deaf, hearing-impaired and speech-impaired customers - whether keeping your TTY or making the transition to using the NRS only. Together we can ensure your customers get the best service possible.

Task B: Ensure you are Relay Service friendly

If you want to make sure people who have a hearing or speech impairment can phone you - you need to let them know they can call you through the National Relay Service. You need to become Relay Service friendly.

Make an internet relay call Make a captioned relay call

24-hour relay call numbers

  • TTY/voice calls

    133 677

  • Speak & Listen

    1300 555 727

  • SMS relay

    0423 677 767

Make other relay calls
– all the numbers you need