Federal Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon has given a speech in Parliament calling on the Morrison Government to restore funding for the much-loved CapTel telephone service that provides a link to the world for deaf and hearing-impaired Novocastrians.
Ms Claydon said that CapTel, which provides real-time captioning for phone conversations, had been axed by the Morrison Government.
“I have received pleas from a number of deaf and hearing-impaired Novocastrians who have told me of their profound distress at the prospect of losing this service,” Ms Claydon said.
“CapTel offers Australians the ability to communicate more easily, have greater quality of life and an improved sense of safety.”
To illustrate the importance of CapTel, Ms Claydon shared with the Parliament the story of Roy Bisson from Maryville, who has only 20% hearing in his right ear and a cochlear implant in his left.
Mr Bisson relies on the CapTel service to speak to his son who doesn’t live in Newcastle.
“Once a week, Mr Bisson does what many parents do – he settles down for a chat on the phone with his son. They don’t get the chance to see each other as often as they’d like in person because his son has a busy life as an electrician in Sydney,” Ms Claydon told the Parliament.
“But sadly, all this is at risk, thanks to the Morrison Government’s cruel and small-minded decision to cut $8 million from the value of the National Relay Service contract.”
Mr Bisson wrote to Ms Claydon in 2019 to let her know that CapTel had been a critical connection world for him.
“Like thousands of Australians with hearing loss, the CapTel handset has provided me a reliable and effective option for communicating by telephone for more than two years,” Mr Bisson wrote.
“It provides me with a level of independence and freedom not offered by alternatives like the Internet Relay Function and web-browser captioned relay which require pre-planning to make and receive calls.”
Mr Bisson panned the Government cut that had put the service in peril:
“The Government’s decision to stop supporting the Captel handsets is unfair and will discriminate against the thousands of Australians who rely on Captel in both their work and personal lives
“CapTel must remain available so that all Australians with hearing loss or impairment can participate in our society on an equal basis and stay connected to the people we care about.”
Ms Claydon said that the service was axed by the Morrison Government from the beginning of February, but it had been given a temporary reprieve by the US company that runs it.
“The decision by Ultratech to continue supporting Australian CapTel handsets as an interim measure is a testament to the strong community campaign against the cuts,” Ms Claydon said.
But it shouldn’t be up to private companies to make up for the Morrison Government’s bad decisions. And it’s still only a temporary reprieve.
“It’s time for the Morrison Government to stop the buck passing and do what’s necessary to secure ongoing access to CapTel.”