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Staying in touch on the phone

The National Relay Service (NRS) is a phone service for people who are deaf, or have a hearing or speech impairment - and those who wish to make phone calls to them. 

Sometimes texting isn’t enough

Although young people are good at keeping in touch with their peers by using SMS or instant messaging, there are many people and services that they can’t contact this way.

Deaf young people can become isolated from the wider world.  When they are younger this may not be such a problem as they can rely on parents or other adults to make the necessary phone calls.

But as they grow older, they will need and want to become more independent.  It won’t always be appropriate for someone else to make that contact with a bank or a doctor, or to ring a government agency or a prospective employer – the sort of phone calls that other people take for granted.

The solution

The National Relay Service helps young people who are deaf or have a hearing impairment to:

  • contact services, agencies, employers and educational institutions
  • ring relatives who don’t use SMS
  • maintain their independence and self-confidence
  • make emergency calls with direct access to the police, fire brigade and ambulance.

The National Relay Service also makes it easier for family, friends and agencies to keep in touch with young deaf people.

Making a call is easy

It’s simple to use – thousands of people use the service every week – and free training is available. Registration is now required to use the service except when making emergency calls.

Some basic tools
To make an NRS call, a deaf person will need to have one of the following: 

  • a computer (PC or Mac), or 
  • a smart phone or tablet (with internet access), or
  • a special phone known as a TTY - A TTY has a small display screen and keyboard that allows the user to type a message.

Depending on the type of call, they can contact National Relay Service by calling a number, using the NRS app or going to the NRS web page to start the call. The caller can ring anyone, anywhere, 24 hours a day. It usually costs no more than a local phone call.

The service uses specially trained staff called relay officers who act as a bridge between the caller and the other person on the line.  Users quickly find that relay officers become ‘invisible’. Relay officers are trained and obliged by law to maintain strict confidentiality.

(Depending on your son or daughter's needs, there are other types of relay calls they can make)
Click to enlarge image

Types of Calls (fact sheets)


Emergency Calls

There are different ways of contacting emergency services depending on the type of call required. It is recommended users store the appropriate emergency numbers on their phones or download the relevant NRS app.

Instructions sheets for contacting emergency services:

Would my son/daughter benefit from using the NRS?

There are no tests or special rules that say who can or can't use the service.  However, if you want your son/daughter to use the NRS they will need to accept the standard procedures for making relay calls.  

You can use the checklist below to see if the NRS is right for your son/daughter.  If you can answer ‘yes’ to the following five questions then the NRS can help them make phone calls using one of the call options: 

  1. Does my son/daughter have a hearing or speech impairment?
  2. Can my son/daughter keep control of their call and not depend on the relay officer for its content?
  3. Is my son/daughter able to use English for those parts of the call that need to be relayed?
  4. Is my son/daughter comfortable with the relay officer being on the line and with relay procedures? 
  5. Can my son/daughter manage the technology required, such as a computer or TTY?  

Disclaimer: The information contained on this website is not intended as a substitute for independent professional advice.

11-Oct-2022 12:11 PM (AEST)