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Relay UK

How Relay UK works for business

Relay UK is a relay service that enables people with little or no hearing, or people with speech difficulties, to communicate with hearing people over the phone.

It's like a 3-way call between a deaf or speech-impaired person, a hearing Relay Assistant, and you. 


The deaf or speech-impaired person can either download the Relay UK app on their mobile, tablet, or computer or use a textphone.


They call your number using a prefix that connects them to Relay UK and a Relay Assistant – sitting in one of BT's relay centres – who speaks and listens to you and then types what you say for the deaf person to read on their screen.


They then type back or they can speak (as not all deaf people are speech-impaired too) for the Relay Assistant to read and speak to you. 

It’s an idea that’s been around for years

Originally set up by the Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID), the modern twist is that the conversations can now be faster and more fluent. This is because the deaf person doesn't have to wait for you to finish speaking before they type to you.


Now when using the Relay UK app the experience is much closer to an actual speech conversation.

How can I be sure the call is confidential?

It’s a good question and one that all responsible businesses should ask. Emergency services, government departments and banks all use this service.

They all asked the same question. And they were satisfied with our response.

We're a regulated service

As a regulated service, we have to comply with strict guidelines and criteria that apply to all providers of relay services. Ofcom checks our performance.

We also keep all our employees up to date with mandatory training on data protection and privacy, and information security.

You know the GDPR, right? So do we

We’re fully compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which means that your data is safe.

Our text relay service is also covered by the BT Privacy Policy.

Keeping personal
information secure

If you’re worried about sharing personal details with the Relay Assistant, be reassured that we take security of this information very seriously.

Text conversations are encrypted when passed to and from the app to the Relay Assistant, then deleted after a call has finished.

We stick to the rules

We screen everyone very carefully before we employ them as Relay Assistants. When they’re on board, they have to stick to strict confidentiality rules.

Anyone who breaks them will find themselves under investigation and, if we find they’re guilty of gross misconduct, out of a job. In serious cases, they could even face criminal prosecution.

How can I help deaf people call my business?

Firstly, download and use our helpful Business Toolkit to let everyone know how to connect to more customers through Relay UK


The key is to train your people how to talk to deaf and speech-impaired callers

Being the hearing person in a relay call is easy. You just need to know that sometimes you’ll get calls via a Relay Assistant. Talk to them as if you were talking direct to a hearing customer but please be patient - it may take a little longer than a regular call.


Here's a few ideas:

  • British Sign Language is a language with its own grammar and syntax, which is different to that used by the English language. So deaf people whose first language is BSL can sometimes seem very direct in conversation
  • Explain that calls may take a little longer than normal and to be patient.
  • Even though there’s a third party on the line, the call is kept confidential
  • Treat the call like you would any other and speak directly to the caller. The conversation isn’t with the Relay Assistant, they just relay back what you say
  • Give the Relay Assistant time to type what you say to the customer

Wait for the customer to type their responses to the Relay Assistant, who’ll then read these back to you

Keep your call steering (IVR) really simple

Call steering is a really handy way of getting people to who they need to speak to, fast. Many businesses rely on it, big or small. But imagine what it’s like if you’re a deaf or hard of hearing person using a relay service. 


The Relay Assistant has to type each option on the call steering menu for the Relay UK user to read. By the time they’ve typed it and the caller has responded, the call steering may have closed down. At best, it takes ages and may need several repeat calls to type the full message. This makes for a frustrating experience for your deaf or hard of hearing customer.

So what can you do about it?

It’s tricky. Call steering is an essential component for many companies. Doing away with your IVR is not feasible. But you can make it easier to navigate.

  • Think about the number of options and levels on your IVR menu, and keep them to a minimum.
  • Leave enough time between asking the last question on a menu and the call dropping out.
  • Add an option for people using a Relay Assistant so they can bypass or minimise the call steering.

How can we call deaf or speech-impaired people?

You need to know that you’re calling a Relay UK user. So that means you should set up your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or contact database to register whether a person is an Relay UK user or not.

When you’re calling a Relay UK user, there are two ways you can go about it:


1. Using the TextNumber
If the deaf or speech-impaired person has given you their TextNumber as a contact number, you’ll automatically connect to the Relay UK service when you call it. You can recognise a TextNumber by its prefix.

  • Numbers starting 07777 connect to someone using the Relay UK app on a mobile.
  • Numbers starting 03306 connect to someone using a textphone or the Relay UK app on a computer or tablet from a landline.


2. No TextNumber?
If the person you’re calling doesn't have a TextNumber, you can connect to the Relay UK service by dialling 18002 in front of their full phone number.

How can I help deaf or speech-impaired people who work for me?

Relay UK can help deaf, hard-of-hearing, or speech-impaired employees talk to anyone on the phone. And you don’t need any special or costly equipment to do it.

All the employee needs to do is download the Relay UK app on their smartphone or tablet and link it to their work phone number* to be able to use the service.   

And that’s it. Just like that, your deaf and speech-impaired employees are in business.

*This must be the actual Calling Line Identification (CLI) of the number that is billed, not an 08 or 09 number.