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      Using textphones

      A textphone (sometimes called a minicom) allows you to communicate by text over a telephone line. It will suit you if your hearing loss or speech impairment makes using a telephone difficult.

      A textphone allows two-way conversation by text. You type your message on a keyboard and you read messages and responses on a display screen. Like a telephone it plugs into a standard (BT) phone socket.

      To call another textphone user dial 180015, then their full telephone number, including their area code. When they answer, anything they type will appear on your screen and anything you type will appear on theirs.

      When you receive a call on a textphone it will ring (like a telephone) and flash a light. You can also use a flashing-light telephone call indicator.

      It is important to take turns typing the messages. Use GA (go ahead) to tell the other person it's their turn.

      Textphones have been in use for many years; but newer technologies, such as Next Generation Text (NGT) (see below) is making them less common (there is currently only one textphone model available in the UK)..

      Text Relay

      You can use a textphone to make and receive calls from telephone users, via a Text Relay assistant. If you make a call to a hearing person the relay assistant will re-speak your text message. They will also type what the hearing person is saying and this will appear on your textphone screen.

      To access Text Relay you need to dial a prefix. To make a call from a textphone, via Text Relay, dial 18001 and then the main number. To make a call to the emergency services dial 18000.

      A hearing person can make a call to a textphone user via Text Relay. They need to dial an 18002 prefix.

      Relay UK

      Relay UK replaced the old text relay service (BT Text Relay) in 2014. NGT works with textphones, smartphones, tablets and Windows computers (desk-top and laptop).

      Relay UK app

      The FREE Relay UK app(lication) works with Android and iOS devices and Windows PCs. The new version can be used on a Mac. You can used it in one of four ways:

      • Type and read – if you can’t hear and don’t use your voice.
      • Speak and read – if you can’t hear but do use your voice.
      • Type and hear – if you can hear but don’t use your voice.
      • Speak and hear – if you need NGT to communicate with people who have hearing loss.

      For more information about Relay UK, go to