Communication is an essential part of our everyday life and it sometimes presents challenges to people with disabilities, especially to blind, partially sighted people and those who are hard of hearing or deaf. You can buy various pieces of equipment (see aids and equipment chapter) to help communication. All companies have a duty under the Disability Discrimination Act to make reasonable adjustment to goods and services. If you require information in alternative formats contact your supplier.
If you experience difficulties.
Tel: DIAL 01733 265551 who may be able to offer advice.
As with other aids and equipment it is the duty of Peterborough Community Services Health and Social Care to assess the needs of disabled people
Tel 01733 747474 to request an assessment.
You may be able to get help with the installation costs of a telephone, but not reimbursement for the rental or actual calls. If you need a telephone for work, even if you are self-employed, you should discuss your needs with the Disabled Employment Adviser based at Peterborough Job Centre Plus. (Tel 01733 297600)
If you are registered blind and living alone you may be able to get help with both the costs of telephone installation and line rental. In the first instance, contact Peterborough Community Services Health and Social Care (Tel 01733 747474) who can apply on your behalf to Telephones for the Blind Fund, 7 Huntersfield Close, Reigate, Surrey RH2 0DX (Tel 01737 248032).
Telephones and various pieces of equipment are available to help you handle your telephone e.g. an easy grip plug to help you plug and unplug it. Cordless phones, which can be used up to 100 metres from the base unit, and mobile phones are particularly useful when mobility is a problem. You could also buy a telephone with a built in microphone and loudspeaker, which allows hands-free operation. All phone companies sell a variety of phones.
BT Age and Disability Services (Tel 0800919591)
Hearing on the telephone Incoming speech amplifiers are suitable if you do not wear a hearing aid or remove it to use the phone. Inductive couplers can help if you switch your hearing aid to the ‘T’ setting. You can have extension bells/tonecallers fitted to let you know that the phone is ringing. BT can supply these free to residential customers with impaired hearing.
If you are profoundly deaf and/or speech impaired you can communicate using textphones (an electronic keyboard and screen). You type messages and both the outgoing and incoming messages are displayed on the screen.
Not all textphones will talk to each other, so check before buying. Any individual or organisation that uses a textphone can have a special entry in the BT phone book at no extra charge.
Telephone bills can be supplied free in large print, braille or other formats, a few days after the normal bill goes out. Alternatively BT can phone you and read out details of your bill before it is posted (talking bills).
If you have difficulty hearing the automatic voice, tell the operator at the start, so he/she can personally give you the number. All directory inquiry lines charge by the minute.
If you cannot hold, or read the printed Telephone Directory because of visual impairment, a disability or a medical condition, you can use the Free Directory Enquiry Service.
The Text Users Rebate Scheme (TURS) has now changed with the introduction of BT TextDirect. The rebate for textphone users will continue, but the new system automatically applies a discount to your BT bill. To get the rebate you must use the TextDirect prefix (18001 for text users, 18002 for hearing people) before dialling a number. any rebate is automatically taken off your BT bill and your Typetalk bill if you use the 0800 access number.
- You don’t have to send your bill to RNID Typetalk, because you have already received the rebate as part of your BT bill.
- Hearing customers who call text users will now get a rebate if they dial 18002 before the number to be called.
- You no longer have to remember account numbers.
- You don’t have to register – this was one of the main barriers preventing people calling text users.
- There is no upper limit on the rebate.
- For the very first time, the rebate applies to businesses and charities.
BT (Tel 0800 919591) RNIB (Tel 0845 7023153) and the Partially Sighted Society (Tel 0844 4774966) all sell special telephones to help visually impaired customers.
If you are severely deaf you could use a flashing light e.g. Phone Flash. Many communication aids for deaf and hearing impaired people can be bought from the RNID marketing division:
Sound Advantage (RNID),
1 Metro Centre, Wellbeck Way, Peterborough PE2 7UH
Tel 01733 361199 (voice) 01733 238020 (text).
Please note that all items are available only by mail order, there is no showroom.
Handsets in all public payphones are fitted with an inductive coupler. If you have a hearing aid, which has a switch marked ‘T’, you will be able to hear the conversation more clearly by switching to ‘T’. Details of payphones and their use are available on cassette as are details of public textphones
Tel 0800 919591 (voice) 0800 243 123 (text).
Text users emergency service: (Tel 18000)
Dialling codes A list of national and international dialling codes and guide to residential telephone charges is available in braille from Deaf Blind UK (Tel 01733 358100)
Talking Pages (Tel: 118 247) is a service run by Yellow Pages where specially trained operators provide the information on shops, services and businesses you need, charged by the minute.
Lifeline Cross Keys Homes
(Tel 01733 385100)
This is a 24-hour 365 days emergency and alerting service run by Cross Keys Homes. The “Lifeline” consists of a special unit fitted to your phone, and a separate pendant, which can be carried or worn on clothing. The system is very useful for people of any age, who live alone or who are alone for part of the day. If the alarm button on the pendant is pressed, trained staff at the Lifeline Control Centre will be able to talk to you summon assistance from your own nominated contacts or the emergency services.
If you fall in the garden, or have an accident anywhere else within your home but away from the unit, pressing the pendant will still trigger a signal to the Control Centre and they will ensure that somebody calls to help you.
Installation can be done by Cross Keys Homes or posted to you with an information pack.
The service is available to anyone living within an approximate 50 mile radius of Peterborough and there is a weekly charge for the service. The lifeline unit works alongside any existing telephone and provides peace of mind.
Communication for the hard of Hearing British sign language and lip reading classes are available at Brook Street College, Peterborough Tel: 01733 761361
Free computer help for disabled people
IT Can Help, sponsored by the Marchday Charitable Trust, was founded in 1994 as a programme of the BCS. It offers Free computer support to disabled people. Our volunteers make over 1000 visits each year to assist disabled people. If you have a disability and need IT help, we will respond as quickly as we can. We are able to solve most of the issues by visiting disabled adults in their homes. Requesting help is simple; it can be done by telephone or email; there are no forms to complete
Tel: 0800 269 545 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
IT Can Help is a UK wide network of volunteers. There volunteers are recruited with care and all have undergone enhanced disclosure checks. Each volunteer carries an IT Can Help identity card. How we can help
- Diagnose and fix most computer related problems;
- Install and set up hardware, software, internet, email and accessibility settings;
- Give impartial advice on IT equipment and software to suit your interests and abilities.
Although they cannot provide training, software or assistive technology, they may be able to help you find local providers
Changing the settings on your computer
To suit your individual needs, you can change the settings on your computer to:
- Increase the size of text
- Increase the size of the on-screen mouse ‘pointer’
- Adjust the speed and sensitivity of the mouse
- Adjust the responsiveness of the keys on a keyboard
- Change the on-screen colours to improve contrast
- Adjust the brightness or contrast on the screen
- Often this is done via the ‘settings’ or ‘accessibility options’ on your computer. The ‘help’ section of your computer should show you how to change your computer’s settings.
Some software allows you to change the text size by selecting the ‘view’ option in the top menu bar and altering the text size to ‘large’.
Most computers have other basic built-in accessibility options including ‘text-to-speech’ features and magnifiers, which increase the size of a part of the screen when you point to it.
If you’re deaf or hearing impaired, you may value an on-screen display that alerts you when your computer makes an alert sound (for example, when a new email message arrives).
Computer products and software are available to help people with particular disabilities, including specialised keyboards or joysticks, screen readers and software that allows you to control a computer through speech.
UK online centres are for people who have little, or no, access to new technologies. The centres help people to develop the skills involved in using the Internet to access information and send email.
UK online is a government-run initiative and centres are often in public buildings, for example, libraries. They can also be run from local colleges, community centres, mobile units and Internet cafes.
Not all centres will have the same facilities but some have a range of adaptive and ‘assistive technology’ available to help users who have a disability. For example, products that read what’s on a computer screen for people who are blind or have a visual impairment. Other assistive technology can make using a mouse or keyboard easier if you have a physical disability.
A member of staff will help you use the computer, plus any additional equipment, as well as showing you how to access the Internet. It’s a good idea to let the centre know when you want to visit. You can then discuss any requirements with them.
Specialist and adapted equipment can make using computers easier. This may be at home, work, school or at college or university.
There are many different types of equipment available; below are just a few ideas.
If you are blind or visually impaired
There are different types of computer screen readers available. Some relay back to you, via a synthetic voice, what you are typing. Others read what’s on a webpage. You can also get readers that have a Braille output device.
Magnification software products enlarge a particular part of a computer screen.
Closed circuit camera systems can magnify print and text and then display an enlarged version on a television or computer screen. There are also ‘standalone’ portable versions, which do not require a television or computer.
Stickers can be put onto standard keyboard keys that either present the letters and numbers as Braille or simply increase the size of the characters.
If you have a physical disability
- A larger keyboard on your computer may help if you have problems with dexterity
- Devices are available that take the place of keyboards but are smaller and need less effort to press the keys
- An ‘on-screen keyboard’ means the user only needs a mouse to select characters on the screen
- Alternatives to using a standard mouse include joysticks or trackerballs, which can be easier to control and use
- Pointers and sticks are available that can be attached to the head and used to press keys on a keyboard
- As with mobile phones, predictive text can help increase the rate of typing – after typing two or three letters, the user is given a selection of words to choose from
If you have a learning disability
Simplified keyboards are available which, for example, contain just the letters of the alphabet. The letters may also be in lowercase. Other keyboards have larger or coloured keys.
You can get software that can present information more simply on the screen. Also, sounds, voices and music can be activated when you complete particular actions and tasks.
Other software can help develop learning skills including literacy, numeracy, music and games.
Advice and help from charities
Some voluntary organisations and charities give useful advice about making computers and information technology (IT) easier to use for people with specific disabilities. They also provide information about the types of assistive technology you can buy.
Some organisations run schemes that help disabled people get the most out of technology. These may include:
- Supplying computer equipment for free or on loan
- Training people in how to set up and use equipment
- Some organisations offer more formal IT training to improve disabled people’s career prospects.
AbilityNet, a national charity helping disabled adults and children use computers and the internet by adapting and adjusting their technology.
Tel: 0800 269 545
Aidis Trust, provides support and information on computer communication equipment for people of all ages with severe disabilities.
Tel: 020 7426 2130
Foundation for Assistive Technology (FAST), works with users of assistive technology to maximise their independence. Assistive technology is any product or service designed to enable independence for disabled and older people Tel: 020 7253 3303
VAT exemptions on products and services for disabled people
Disabled people don’t have to pay VAT when they buy equipment that is designed solely for their use or when they have equipment adapted so they can use it. This applies to computer hardware and software.
If a piece of computer hardware or software is a tool to help you overcome communication difficulties related to your disability and it is for you to use at home (rather than at work), you may not have to pay VAT when you buy it, or when you get it serviced or repaired.
Tel: 08450 109000
Financial help and education
Most schools offer advice about technology and there may be specialised equipment available to you. If you’re in higher education, you may be eligible to receive Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs). One of the things DSAs can help with is paying for equipment and software if you need it to study.
Access to work
Access to Work is a work scheme that provides practical support to disabled people and their employers to help them overcome problems at work. This can include helping to pay for special equipment for disabled employees.