DDA Guide: Frequently asked questions: the National Relay Service

 

What is the National Relay Service?

The NRS is an Australian Government initiative. It provides phone service for people who are deaf, hearing-impaired or have complex communication needs. The NRS relay officer provides a link for the parties to the call and relays exactly what is said or typed. The NRS relay officer is present for the duration of the call to ensure smooth communication between the parties but does not change or interfere with what the parties say. For more information on the NRS please go to their website; www.relayservice.gov.au


Would the DDA cover complaints from people with a disability if a business, service provider or government agency refused to provide information to customers via the NRS?

Yes. The DDA covers discrimination in the area of goods, services and facilities. If a business, service provider or government agency provides information or services to customers by telephone, customers using the NRS are entitled to access to the business, service provider or government agency’s telephone service. Refusal to provide a service to a person with a disability via the NRS could result in a disability discrimination complaint.


Are there any limits under the DDA to the provision of information to customers via the NRS?

Yes. Under the DDA a business, service provider or government agency could claim that providing information to customers via the NRS would be unreasonable or that it imposes what is legally referred to as “unjustifiable hardship”. For more information on ‘unjustifiable hardship’ see: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/quick-guide/12105


Does the DDA cover staff who are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment?

Yes.

Employees might rely on using the NRS to perform their job duties – to make and receive calls. Employers should ensure that staff who need to use the NRS are able to do so easily. This may mean providing them with workplace accommodations such as:

Access to internet relay through a staff member's computer may require the employer’s IT department to open certain ports in the corporate firewall. Contact the National Relay Service for more advice.

The Australian Network on Disability : http://www.and.org.au/ also provides more information on employer support for employees with disabilities.


Would the DDA cover complaints from people with a disability if a business, service provider or government agency refused to let them use the NRS?

Yes. The DDA covers discrimination in the area of goods, services and facilities. If a business, service provider or government agency provides customers with phone usage as part of their service [e.g. hospital patients making a phone call out; students with intellectual disability learning to make phone calls; job support agencies providing free phone use for job-seekers], customers using the NRS are entitled to access to the same phone usage.
 

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