About us

The Text Relay service forms part of the UK telephone network. It provides a communication service for people who cannot use a standard voice telephone.

Providing independence

The service lets deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired people call friends, family and businesses – from ordering takeaways and booking taxis to telephone banking and ordering goods from a catalogue.

Text Relay is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Calls are charged at your telecommunications provider's standard rate. There is no additional charge for this service, but due to the fact that text calls can take longer than voice calls, you may be able to get a refund from your telecommunications provider.

Private and confidential

All calls managed by Text Relay are private and confidential. The emergency services, many government departments, banks and building societies use our services. Personal, sensitive and confidential information is relayed securely on a daily basis.

Your conversation will not be shared with anybody unless it is directed at the Relay Assistant, or if there is reason to believe a criminal or terrorist act is being discussed.

The history of Text Relay

During the 1980s, Lady Pauline Ashley, a former Action on Hearing Loss President, was concerned that deaf and speech impaired people were isolated by lack of access to the telephone system. She shared these concerns with Mike Martin, pioneer of the first ever cochlear implant and together, they came up with the idea of the first ever text relay service.

In the beginning, just two operators sat in the Action on Hearing Loss's head office and provided a telephone relay service, called Action on Hearing Loss TypeTalk, for 100 subscribers. The service has continued to develop ever since. In 2001, BT launched BT TextDirect which meant for the first time consumers could call direct to any number and the system could intelligently recognise whether the caller needed a relay assistant to translate the call. And in 2003, further innovation meant that, for the first time, people could make direct textphone to textphone calls and choose if they wanted an operator on the call. The text relay emergency number (18000) followed the next year.

Today, the UK's text relay service handles a significant number of calls each week, including calls with relay assistants, and direct textphone to textphone calls. This is all funded by the UK communications industry.

In March 2009, the service was renamed Text Relay, thereby removing confusion resulting from having two names associated with the service (Action on Hearing Loss Typetalk and BT TextDirect). As part of this re-brand, www.textrelay.org was created by BT to give a one-stop shop for text communication – covering the use of Text Relay services, other communication options, information for businesses, support and advice, and of course news.

Support and advice

FAQs

Still got questions? We're sure you'll find the answers in our FAQs section.

Downloads

Download user guides and find out how to turn your PC into a textphone.

Useful links

Industry related links.

British Sign Language videos

All of our BSL video guides, in one place.

BSL Video – Keeping people connected (5.22)

This video contains British Sign Language content, there is no audio content available. Skip Video

Important Numbers

To make a textphone call:
dial 18001 + number

To make a telephone call:
dial 18002 + number

Emergency calls: dial 18000

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