Grandmother fears vital service cut will leave her trapped
FOR the past 48 years Patricia Woods' world has grown increasingly lonely, as her hearing deteriorated.
The 88-year-old Mt Lofty grandmother is profoundly deaf and lived in near-isolation until she signed up to the Federal Government's National Relay Service provider, Access Comm.
It gave her a CapTel phone that instantly translated phone calls into text and empowered Mrs Woods to speak to her family, friends and doctor with ease. But less than 12 months after she received this lifeline to the outside world the Department of Communication ended its contract with the Access Comm, favouring an American provider Concentrix.
It will provide audio-visual services for people with hearing and vision impairment, via tablets and smart phone devices, but Mrs Woods is not interested. She prefers the CapTel system, which is a proven performer.
"I do not think I could handle any of that modern technology," Mrs Woods said
"All the young ones today have grown up with it, but I'm much older."
Mrs Woods daughter Mary Cosh said the planned replacement voice-to-text system was outdated
She said it used a third-party teletypewriter (TTY), who will listen to her mother's call and transcribe the conversations.
"If you ring them up, you might not be able to talk to an operator straight away and you might be in a call waiting list for 20 minutes," Mrs Cosh said.
"CapTel keeps mum in her own home and I do not think she will be safe without it.
"If she had a heart attack or a fall she might wait for 20-30 minutes for the operator to answer and relay the information to emergency services."
The two women are part of a growing chorus of deaf Australians calling on the government to reverse its decision.
It includes Australia's only profoundly deaf veterinarian Alex Harrison.
He used the TTY system for 17 years and said people often assumed he was telemarketer and would hang up on him.
"Sometimes we make decisions which save money, but at what cost - human dignity?" Dr Harrison said.
The CapTel users started a petition to pressure the government to keep CapTel on the National Relay Service.
Click here to sign the petition.
The Federal Department of Communication and the Arts was contacted for comment.