New BT Service Helps People With Hearing Difficulties Get Free Calls

By Holly Brockwell on at

BT is adding a confidential text relay service to its InLink touchscreen information points across the country.

There are apparently 320 of them in various locations around the UK. If you've never seen one, here's what they do:

InLinkUK is a new communications service that will replace over 1,000 payphones in major cities across the UK, with new structures called InLinks.

Each InLink provides ultrafast, free public Wi-Fi, phone calls, device charging and a tablet for access to city services, maps and directions.

We're surprised any of them have lasted more than five minutes without being vandalised to hell, but apparently they have.

They look like this:

From today, the units will offer a text relay service that lets people with hearing and speech difficulties to use the free phone calls the InLinks offer.

Called Next Generation Text, it's a BT service launched in 2014 on phones that lets deaf, hard-of-hearing or speech-impaired people type what they'd like to say, which is then said out loud by a Relay Assistant to the person on the other end. The assistant also types up the recipient's answers for the caller to read.

Matt Bird, general manager of InLinkUK – a startup that's working with BT on the project – comments:

"The InLinks were designed to be accessible for all users, regardless of their physical or technological capabilities. We currently provide braille embossed information on all key features, and we also have hearing induction loops integrated into all of our street units.

We are thrilled to introduce the Next Generation Text service to better support members of the public with hearing and speech difficulties – advancing our commitment to enabling digital inclusion throughout the UK."

Apparently, InLink units have over 200,000 WiFi users and make over 70,000 calls a week. We're happy to see more people becoming included in that – tech is for everyone, after all.