KPN Teletolk will continue to connect deaf and hearing-impaired people with society

Interpreters mediate approximately 30,000 calls and 250,000 call minutes per year

For the past ten years, KPN Teletolk has made it possible for deaf and hearing-impaired people to make phone calls using sign language – for example, to make a doctor's appointment, to order a pizza, or to chase up their orders from shops. More than 2,500 phone calls are made with KPN Teletolk every month. For the next five years, deaf people, hearing-impaired people, and people with a language or speech impairment will be able to keep doing all of these things on their own. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate (EZK) has reappointed KPN, Berengroep, and nWise to continue providing this important service together until October 2028. 

KPN Teletolk is a text and image mediation service for the deaf and people with a hearing or speech impairment. It enables them to make phone calls to people who can hear and to organizations. Users can communicate in text, speech, or Dutch Sign Language. The interpreter translates everything that is said or gestured. This helps ensure equal access to telephony, which is in keeping with KPN’s mission to connect everyone in the Netherlands to a sustainable future. KPN is also committed to helping those for whom that is not a matter of course, for example through the KPN Mooiste Contact Fonds and KPN Teletolk. This service will become even more accessible over the next five years; since the beginning of October, for example, the service has been free of charge, and the opening hours have been extended from 7 am to 10 pm.

Marieke Snoep, member of the KPN Board of Management and responsible for the Consumer Market, is delighted that KPN will continue to operate the Teletolk service. “For four decades, KPN has been championing greater inclusivity through connectivity for people for whom this isn’t always a given. For example, since 1983 it has been possible for deaf and hard-of-hearing people to make text relay calls, and since 2013 we have been doing this under the auspices of KPN Teletolk, where interpreters translate phone calls in both text and images. We are delighted to be able to continue to provide this important service and make it even more accessible in the years to come. This is another example of our commitment to connecting the deaf and hard-of-hearing with society.”

Pascal Ursinus, owner and founder of Berengroep, is also pleased that their interpreters can continue to contribute to equal communication. “KPN Teletolk is a great example of inclusion; it ensures that everyone can make a phone call, even if you can't hear or speak well. In 2013, we started out with four Dutch Sign Language interpreters, and in that year we mediated nearly 3,000 minutes of telephone traffic each month. Over the past ten years, this service has become an increasingly important communication tool, and we now mediate 20,000 call minutes a month.”

The ratio of text mediation to image mediation is now almost 50-50, which is very different from a decade ago when nine out of ten users were still making text relay calls. Three years ago, during the pandemic, KPN Teletolk broke records, mediating around 2,700 calls and more than 25,000 minutes every month. KPN provides all the underlying connectivity, and all calls are translated by Berengroep’s interpreting center in Bilthoven.