The following guide is the product of considerable work by the NDA, ComReg, the telecommunications sector including both fixed-line and mobile operators, and representative disability organisations including:
- BT Communications Ireland
- eircom Ltd
- 3 Mobile
- Vodafone Ireland
- O2 Communications Ireland
- People with Disabilities in Ireland
- Disability Federation of Ireland
- NCBI (National Council for the Blind)
- National Association for Deaf People
The NDA and ComReg would like to thank all participants for their contribution, and wish to acknowledge that the guide represents a joint effort by all concerned.
Equipment and services that make it easier to communicate using the phone or broadband
This guide has been designed to inform you about the various phone features and services available from Service Providers in this country. Information is provided on:
- Useful telephone features and services;
- Useful broadband internet services;
- Billing and customer support information; and
- The contact details for the various agencies and service
If you find any services that appeal to you, you can contact any of the Service Providers listed in the ‘Contact Information’ section at the end of the guide.
All listed services are offered by at least one provider, sometimes more.
Useful phone services
Phone service providers offer a number of services that enable people with disabilities to communicate more easily. To find out whether these are available, contact the individual service providers. Contact details are provided at the end of this brochure.
- SMS to speech: This is a service that
converts any text messages (also called SMS) that are sent to you into speech so
you can listen to them. This can be very useful if you have difficulty reading
the display and do not have a phone that can convert text to speech
- Text relay service: This service allows you
to receive voice messages on a text-phone by translating them into text. You can
then send that text to the text-phone of customers of any operator.
- Video calling: This enables communication
between two handsets using live video. Currently, this service is available only
on mobile handsets which are equipped to access the 3G network (3G stands for
‘Third Generation’ and enables you to use services such as the
Internet, or Instant Messaging on your 3G enabled mobile phone).
- Free Directory Enquiries: For those who are
unable to use a phone book because of a disability, some operators provide
special directory enquiries services free of charge.
- Delivery Reports: This feature, which is
quite common on mobile phones, lets you receive a free text message stating
whether the text message you have sent has been received by the
Useful features of fixed-line phones and mobile phones
You may find some of the following features helpful. These are available on some fixed-line phone handsets (sometimes called your landline or home phone) and mobile phones. Contact your service provider (the telephone company which provides you with a phone service) to find out whether they can provide equipment with these features. Contact details for all service providers are included at the end of this brochure.
- Large keys: Some phones have keys that are
larger than normal, well spaced or recessed and with a raised dot on the number
5. These can be much easier to use for people who have difficulty seeing or
operating small controls.
- Hands-free: A phone that you can use
hands-free, by having an in-built microphone and loudspeaker, can be useful if
you have trouble holding a handset.
- Hearing-aid compatible: Phones that can be
used with a hearing aid (hearing-aid compatible phones) can be much easier to
use if you are hard of hearing. To use this feature, set your hearing aid to the
- Headsets: Some phones can be used with an
earpiece or headset. This may be connected either through a standard ‘mini
jack’ headphone socket in your phone or wirelessly using Bluetooth.
Bluetooth is the name of the technology that allows devices to communicate
wirelessly. This can produce better call quality for some people and is easier
to use if you need voice output.
- Voice output: Voice output is available on
some mobile phones to speak out the menus and other information on the display.
Voice output makes most or all of the phone’s functions available if you
cannot read the text on the display.
- Volume: Some phones are louder than others.
Most have adjustable volume level.
- Text (SMS) and multimedia messaging (MMS):
All mobile phones and some fixed-line phones can be used to send text messages.
Some can also send multimedia messages that contain video, sound, or
- Text size: Some phones have larger displays
with bigger text or text that is adjustable in size if you have low
- Display screen contrast: The screen on some
phones uses a display with more or better contrast than others.
- Voice dialling: This allows you to dial a
person by just speaking their name, once you have entered their number into the
phone’s ‘phone book’.
- Quick dial keys: Many phones allow you to
associate specific numbers to certain keys, so that pressing the key
automatically dials the number. In some cases, special keys are provided with
symbols on them to indicate the function, such as Doctor, Police or Assistance.
This can be very useful in providing security if you cannot easily remember
- Backlit keypad: Some mobile phones have
keypads that light up, making it easier to see the numbers and letters in the
- Flashing indicator: Phones may offer a
flashing display function which visually notifies you of an incoming call or
- Vibration Function: A phone with a built in
vibration function will notify you of an incoming call or text message by
Useful broadband internet services
Broadband internet offers a number of alternative or additional possibilities for communication. Some of these may make communication easier or more cost effective if you have a disability.
- Internet calling: There are various services
available over the internet to make low-cost phone calls, video calls and text
messages. One of the more popular low-cost phone call services is called
- Instant Messaging: Instant messaging can be
described as having a text conversation in real time. Many Instant Messaging
programs are available free of charge and some can even be used on a mobile
phone. Popular Instant Messengers are MSN Messenger, AIM, ICQ and Yahoo
- Email: An email is a message which is sent
electronically (over the internet) from one person to another. To send and
receive emails you need an email account. These accounts are mostly free of
charge. Popular email services are provided by Google, Yahoo, and Windows Live.
Reading bills and other information
If you find it difficult to read printed text, there are other ways you can access the information.
- Other bill formats: If you have difficulty
reading your phone bill, it may be possible to ask for it in a different format,
such as large print, Braille, audio or clear print. Alternatively, you may be
able to have your bill delivered by email, or to view an accessible online
version on the service provider’s website.
- Other information: Information describing
services and instructions on how to set them up is often available in accessible
formats, such as large print, Braille, plain text, email or accessible web
- Online access to services: Some service
providers offer online access through their website to services like looking at
your bill or changing to another package.
All service providers offer customer support for the range of equipment and services they provide. The following supports can be very useful.
- Set-up assistance: Assistance may be
available with the set-up of equipment and services.
- User guides: When you purchase a new phone, a
user guide will be included. If you need the user guide in a different format,
such as Braille, you should contact your service provider to find out what other
options they can provide.
Help with costs
The following services can help greatly to reduce the cost of using your phone.
- The Telephone Allowance: Many people with
disabilities and older people can receive help with their phone bills from the
Department of Social and Family Affairs, under the Household Benefits Scheme. To
find out whether you qualify and how to apply, contact the Department of Social
and Family Affairs (details available in the ‘Contact information’
section of this guide)
- Free calls: Many mobile phone and fixed-line
service providers provide packages that allow you to make free calls to people
who are registered with the same service provider. This can save you a lot of
money for numbers that you dial frequently.
- Free equipment: Some of the features or
accessories that you need in a phone handset or mobile phone are provided by
some operators at no extra cost or at a discount. Contact your service provider
to find out which ones they offer.
- Free services: Operators may provide some
services free if you need them. For example, free priority fault repair if you
are vulnerable and rely on your phone for contact and requesting
- SMS Bundles: Certain mobile operators may
offer a special package called a Text Bundle. You could save money by purchasing
text messages in a bundle compared to normal priced text messaging.