Help for Disabled

Telecoms Services for Disabled People

For many people who have problems with their hearing or speech, making and receiving telephone calls can be difficult. However, there are services that can help you with this if your speech or hearing is impaired.


The Next Generation Text Service (NGTS) helps people who can’t easily hear or be understood on telephone calls. The service allows you to make a call and type what you want to say on a computer, tablet or smartphone. The words you type are then spoken or typed to the person you are calling by a Relay Assistant, who will then speak or type the other person’s response to you.

Relay Assistants stay on each call for as long as needed, and the only part they take in the call is relaying the information between the two callers. All information is relayed securely and treated as private and confidential.

The NGTS was designed by BT but the service is offered by all the major telecoms providers in the UK, including Sky, EE and Vodafone. For a full list of providers offering the service visit

The NGTS was launched in 2014. It replaced the old Text Relay service, and can be used with a text phone the same as the old service, in addition to new devices.

How the NGTS can be used

The NGTS can be used in a variety of different way depending on your particular needs:

  • Type & Read. This is for people who have problems both hearing the other person on a phone call and being understood by them. This service allows you to type what you want to say and have the other person’s responses relayed to you in typed form for you to read.
  • Speak & Read. If you can be understood by the other person on a call but have trouble hearing what they’re saying, Speak & Read allows you to use your voice but have the other person’s responses typed back to you so you can read them rather than having to hear them.
  • Type & Hear. If you can hear what someone else is saying but you can’t use your voice or other people have difficulty understanding what you’re saying, Type & Hear allows you to hear the other person’s voice and type your responses, which will then be spoken to the other person by the Relay Assistant.
  • Speak & Hear. This service is for people who do not have problems with their speech or hearing themselves, but need to call or be called by someone who does. You can speak just as you would on a normal phone call, but the other person’s responses may be read to you by a Relay Assistant; or you may be able to hear the other person’s voice but the Relay Assistant will have to type your responses to them.

How to use the NGTS

To be able to type and call using the NGTS, you will need to download the NGT Lite app. This is a free app that is available for a variety of devices using Android, iOS, MS Windows, Linux and Braille display devices. You will need to download the correct version for the operating system of your device. Links for different devices can be found on the NGTS website:

You can also find more help and advice here about installing the app and using the service.


People with impaired hearing or speech are often concerned about needing the emergency services due to having difficulties with telephone calls. The Emergency SMS service has been set up for this purpose. It allows people who have trouble hearing or being understood to send an SMS text message to the 999 service in the UK.

The Emergency SMS Service is supported by the government, the emergency services, Ofcom, Action on Hearing Loss, and several of the UK’s main communications providers.

As with 999 calls, the Emergency SMS service should only be used in extreme circumstances such as someone is gravely ill or injured, if there is a fire or someone is missing at sea, if a crime is being committed or if life is at risk.

How to use the Emergency SMS Service

In order to use the Emergency SMS service your phone must be registered with the service first. This can be done by sending an SMS message with the word “register” to 999, provided your mobile phone provider supports the service. If you change your mobile phone number, you will need to register again.

If you need to send a 999 text in an emergency, it should contain the following details:

  • Which service you need (ambulance, police, fire service or coastguard).
  • A brief description of the emergency.
  • Where it is happening (town, road name, and if possible, house number and some nearby landmarks).

The emergency services will reply to let you know help is on its way.

For more details about the service visit