The deaf and hard of hearing now have dedicated telephone services

FIGARO DEMAIN – As of today, all telephone operators are offering assistance systems for deaf and hard of hearing people, in application of the digital law adopted in October 2016.

When it comes to telephoning, deaf and hard of hearing people are often helpless because they are faced with complex situations. To remedy this, the French telephone operators are launching new support systems this Monday, in application of adopted in October 2016. The five million hearing impaired people in France now have one hour of free communication per month via translators from conversation in the language of their choice.

Section 43 aims to make telephone services more accessible to deaf and hard of hearing people. The law thus makes telephone accessibility compulsory for three types of actors: telecommunications operators, public services and companies with a turnover of more than 250 million euros. The legislator, on the other hand, refused to set up a universal telephone relay service, a public platform which would have dealt with all the calls in question, a project carried by the associations.

“A deaf person is trying to reach you”

“Bouygues Telecom, Euro-Information Telecom, Orange and SFR have selected the start-up RogerVoice to ensure the accessibility of their interpersonal communications telephony services to people who are deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind and aphasic”, specifies on its site the French Federation of Telecoms, which brings together fifteen telephone operators. For its part, the operator Free, which no longer adheres to FFTélécoms since 2011, has chosen the company Deafi.

Concretely, at the time of the call, an intermediary takes care of the deaf or hard of hearing customer by offering a live translation. The latter can choose to have a video transcript of the conversation in sign language or simply to read the lips of the translator. Written transcription, subtitled video and even braille options are also available. A connection time then allows the interpreter to explain the nature of the communication. An essential contextualization, according to Michel Combot, managing director of FFTélécoms, who recalls that “the tone adopted by the interpreter will not be the same if you call a member of your family or an administration”. And finally, the interlocutor that the deaf or hard of hearing person seeks to reach will hear the following sentence as a preamble: “Hello, you are in contact with the Roger Voice telephone platform, a deaf person seeks to reach you. I am an interpreter and I will translate your conversation ”.

For their part, companies affected by the law and public services will have to facilitate the reception of these calls. For example, a company’s customer service should be organized in such a way that a deaf or hard of hearing person can contact them without difficulty using the intermediary application. “Public services and businesses must make their reception or customer relations services accessible to ensure the success of the operation,” explains FFTélécoms. “We are now at an essential stage that we have been waiting for for many years,” explained Jérémie Boroy, president of the National Union for the Social Integration of the Hearing Impaired (UNISDA), during a presentation of this report. new service last Thursday.

Insufficient number of interpreters

The law provides for the gradual implementation of the system. From October 1, 2021, free calling time will drop to 3 hours per month, then to 5 hours from 2026. Because at present, there are only 500 sign language interpreters, reports l ‘AFP. A figure for the moment too low to “open a service which operates 24 hours a day”, specifies Jérémie Boroy. For now, the service is available from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. These new services could however “stimulate a dynamic” which would allow “to develop training (…) of specialized professionals”, wants to believe Jérémie Boroy.


Big Bang Santé, Maison de la Chimie in Paris, October 18, 2018, from 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.