National Relay Service

  • 2020

  • Social Impact

Designed By:

  • Tigerspike
  • Concentrix

Commissioned By:

Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications

Designed In:


The National Relay Service (NRS) is an Australian Government initiative that empowers people that are Deaf, hard of hearing and/or have a speech impairment to make and receive phone calls. The mobile apps connect users with relay officers- enabling reliable, chat-based call-making in work, life admin, social and emergency scenarios.

  • MORE
  • A digital re-platforming of the iOS and Android apps presented the opportunity to upgrade the call-making experience, focusing on the most frequently used call type, which is chat-based. Here, users text their side of the conversation to a relay officer, who speaks on their behalf and types the responses of the other person. The apps needed to provide a cost-effective upgrade of the experience as well as ensure the solution was robust, reliable and could handle and prioritise emergency call-making functionality. It needed to additionally serve as a hub to educate and connect people with other call types and services.

  • The mobile apps offer accessible and intuitive relay call-making, offering reliable access to emergency services with a minimum to zero wait time. They were brought inline with native, modern chat-based app experiences, and call-making was streamlined with unnecessary barriers removed. Rounds of research informed feature prioritisation, with queue numbering helping to reduce frustration in times of high call traffic. Native components enabled rapid delivery of future-proofed accessibility features, including haptic notifications, screen reader and flexible text scaling functionality. Access via the app to a Skype-based call service enables Auslan (Australian Sign Language) speakers to converse in their language of preference.

  • The NRS apps connect people across Australia with each other every day, with up to 225 daily active users in peak times. The apps empower people to make relay calls as part of their everyday life, without the need for additional technology or people. This is an essential service in the drive forward to provide greater social equity for the Deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired communities. Additionally critical is the provision of fast, reliable access to emergency services. By leveraging the power of mobility and streamlining the call-making process, users now have optimised access from their mobile handset.

  • The wait time for being connected with a relay officer depends on the number of calls coming through, and while resources have been added to reduce wait times, fluctuation is inevitable. Through user research it was uncovered that a previous lack of transparency around wait times were a most common source of frustration for people, and so their position in queue is now displayed. This new approach helps to set expectations in exceptionally busy times, helping to alleviate any frustration. The apps additionally feature enhanced emergency functionality. Calls to emergency services are prioritised in queue with a minimum to zero wait time. Callers can rapidly share their current location as co-ordinates or an address, helping to speed up the delivery of information in situations when every second counts. Despite relaying potentially sensitive and personal information, the new NRS mobile apps do not store any user information on the users mobile device. Users are not required to register an account in order to receive relayed calls through the mobile apps and hence collection of personal details is significantly minimised.