CRTC improves quality and access to message relay services
December 14, 2018– Ottawa-Gatineau – Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
The CRTC today took steps to enhance the user experience of message relay services by mandating standards for quality, accessibility and functionality.
Message relay services enable Canadians with a hearing or a speech disability to make and receive telephone calls via text with the assistance of a relay operator. New standards will require, for example, that relay operators achieve a certain typing speed, rate of accuracy, and call-answer time. This will mean that message relay users will experience faster response times and increased accuracy of the service, as well as accessible IP relay interfaces.
Since the mid 1980s, the CRTC has required home phone providers to offer message relay services to their customers 24 hours per day, seven days per week: first through teletypewriter (TTY) relay service, then also through IP relay services.
Given that many Canadians are disconnecting their home phones in favour of cellphones, the CRTC is directing mobile wireless service providers to offer IP relay services to their customers by June 14, 2019. Additionally, providers must ensure these services work well on cellphones and meet the specific accessibility needs of users.
“The measures announced today will help Canadians participate in society with fewer barriers, by improving the quality, accessibility and functionality of our telecommunications system for persons with disabilities. Message relay services aim to enable Canadians with a hearing or speech disability to make and receive telephone calls on an equal basis with others. We are therefore ensuring these services remain available into the future, continue to work well as telecommunications networks evolve, and meet the accessibility needs of Canadians, whether they choose to use a home or mobile phone or device.”
-Ian Scott, Chairperson and CEO of the CRTC
During a message relay call, the operator acts as an intermediary and communicates with the person with a hearing or speech disability via text and with the other party via voice.
As of today, each relay operator must have a 45 word per minute typing speed and each message relay service provider must answer 80% of calls within 20 seconds. As of December 2019, the standard will increase to 85% of calls within 10 seconds.
TTY relay service will continue to be offered to all home phone subscribers, but not to cellphone subscribers, since TTY signals cannot be transmitted over modern wireless networks.
By the end of 2019, Canada’s large wireless carriers must file with the CRTC their plans and timeframes to support a relay service based on real-time text, which can be transmitted over modern wireless networks.
IP relay service will continue to be offered to all home phone subscribers and will also be offered to all cellphone subscribers. Any cellphone subscriber who wishes to access IP relay service will not be required to subscribe to a home phone service.
Today’s announcement does not impact Video Relay Services (VRS). Unlike a video relay call, which is conducted via sign-language, a message relay call is conducted via text.
New standards will require that message relay services remain compatible with Braille displays and that portal to Internet Protocol (IP) relay platforms meet accessibility guidelines of the World Wide Web Consortium.