More than 100 deaf people and their supporters rallied outside the Calgary offices of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) Friday.

They want the CRTC to continue providing a free service that allows deaf people to use visual phones and sign language interpreters.

Called the video relay system (VRS), the service was provided on an 18-month trial to more than 300 deaf people in B.C. and Alberta. The service is slated to end when funding runs out on Sunday. 

Telus spokesperson Chris Gerritsen said the company initiated the process by offering to gather information and give insight to the CRTC on how the service might work best.

Gerritsen said Telus will be giving the data to CRTC so it can decide whether it wants to hold public consultations to see how it could roll out the service nationally and be funded in a sustainable manner.

Protesters want 'face-to-face' communication

The trial was funded by a CRTC mandated deferral account created in 2002, said Gerritsen. Funds were collected and set aside by the CRTC and were used to improve rural connections and services for those with disabilities.

Most of the deaf community currently use text telephone (TTY), a special device that lets people who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech-impaired use the telephone to communicate.

Speaking through an interpreter, rally organizer Luba Douziech says the service meant she can communicate "face-to-face" instead of the old way of using the TTY teletype system.

"The purpose of the trial has really been very successful; we've proven that's it been very beneficial," said Douziech. "We want that service to be maintained. It’s our right to use our first language, American sign language."                      

Rallies similar to the one in Calgary also happened across Canada. So far, the CRTC hasn't commented about its plans.