The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is urging local governments across Japan to embrace a telephone relay service, aiming to develop a more accommodating work environment for hard of hearing staff.

The service facilitates communication between, on one side, workers hard of hearing and those with speech impediments, with other parties, by connecting them with operators online. These operators, displayed on the screens of smartphones and tablets, assist in communication through sign language and other methods.

The Nippon Foundation started providing the telephone relay service as part of assistance to individuals that are hard of hearing affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Established as a form of public infrastructure in July 2021 under the law on facilitating telephone use for individuals that are hard of hearing, the service operates 24/7 and responds to emergency calls.