There are many disability supports available for people with a sight, hearing, speech or other communication difficulty. These include personal assistive technology devices (such as communication boards and computer tablets), interpreters and phone services such as the National Relay Service.
National Relay Service
The National Relay Service (NRS) is a 24-hour Australia-wide phone service for people who are deaf, are hard of hearing or have a speech impediment. It is also available to anyone who wants to call a person with a hearing impairment or speech impediment. The service keeps the content of all calls and the identity of callers confidential.
The NRS transmits messages via:
- internet relay
- captioned relay
- SMS relay
- video relay
- Type and Read
- Speak and Read
- Type and Listen.
When you speak to an NRS user who is deaf or hearing impaired, your words will be typed by the relay officer.
The NRS relays your calls at no extra cost beyond the cost of connecting to the service.
- For teletypewriter (TTY) or voice calls, call 133 677.
- For Speak & Listen, call 1300 555 727.
- For SMS relay, text 0423 677 767.
A TTY (teletypewriter) is a special type of phone with a keyboard where you can type your side of the message. It also has a small display screen where you can read what the other person has said to you.
A TTY is the most common relay service for the deaf and used by NRS users.
Interpreters and notetakers
Professional interpreters and notetakers are widely available for deaf and deafblind people who need extra help with communication.
A number of deaf and interpreting organisations can provide Australian Sign Language (Auslan) interpreters either in person or remotely via videoconferencing technology (where the person appears on a screen).
Notetakers can keep a written record of what is said on behalf of deaf people and can be critical in situations where notes are expected to be taken, such as a university lecture. If a deaf person is watching an interpreter signing to them, it is impossible to take good notes at the same time.
Situations where interpreters and notetakers are useful include:
- education (university courses, parent–teacher interviews)
- job interviews
- legal situations including at court
- medical appointments
- public events
- staff meetings
- theatre and the arts
- vocational training.
To make sure the interpreter will act professionally on your behalf, check to see if they are registered with the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI).
Personal assistive devices
There are a range of personal assistive devices on the market to help people with hearing impairment, low vision and other communication impairments.
Devices for deaf or hearing-impaired people include:
- listening/hearing devices – including loop systems
- modified phones – including TTY
- voice amplifiers.
Devices for blind or visually impaired people include:
- alerting devices – systems that sound an audible alarm or vibrate to alert a person with low vision to events in and around their home
- book alternatives (for example, large print, braille, audio books, ebook readers)
- large and other specialty keyboards
- large print equipment such as calculators
- light and colour detectors and readers – help people to detect objects around them or measure the presence and intensity of light
- talking colour detectors – hand-held devices that detect and announce the colour of a surface it is pointed to.
Other assistive technology devices for people with other communication difficulties include:
- communication software and apps
- speech-generating devices
- communication boards and similar devices
- voice amplifiers.
The Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) Auslan Tutor is a portable video-based Auslan teaching resource developed specifically for mobile devices. It is available for download on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch on the App Store, and Android devices on Google Play.
Where to get help
- National Relay Service (TTY/voice calls), call 133 677
- Scope Victoria, call 1300 4 SCOPE (72673)
- Vision Australia, call 1300 84 74 66
- National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI)
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
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