As World Telecommunication and Information Society (WTIS) Day approaches (17 May 2008), deaf people in Britain wonder how long their wait for telecoms equality must go on. TAG, a consortium of the UKβs main deaf organisations concerned with e-communications, is calling on the government to make relatively simple changes to regulations which would lead to much-needed modernisation of telecoms for deaf people.
Despite recent advances in telecommunications, access to these services for deaf and hard of hearing people still lags far behind that of their hearing counterparts even though widely available technologies could create much-needed improvements. Several services using the newer technologies have recently closed through lack of funding and deaf peopleβs life chances are steadily reducing.
It is hoped that this year's WTIS Day, with a Call for Action in 'Connecting Persons with Disabilities: ICT Opportunities for All' will mark the start of serious UK Government moves to address the situation.
ITU (International Telecommunication Union) Secretary-General Hamadoun TourΓ© said: βThe key to the information society is universal access. Everyone must have equal opportunity to participate in the digital age. And no one should be denied the potential benefits of new information and communication technologies (ICT), not least because they are hampered by their disabilities. Better telecoms services that pay special attention to the formulation of universal design concepts and the use of assistive technologies for deaf and hard-of-hearing people would empower them to communicate more freely and derive the benefits of ICT available to all.β
Ruth Myers, Chair of TAG said: βOur campaign is essentially about civil rights. Itβs simply not possible to participate fully in todayβs society without having equal access to up-to-date telecoms. Only a very small number of deaf people do have such access β the rest are struggling with outdated systems or nothing at all! That must change and we call upon the Government to help make that happen by looking at the regulatory framework which could facilitate improvements.β
Notes to Editors:
Two deaf telephone services that can change lives
Captioned telephony was available in the UK from 2002-2007 on a very limited basis. With two communication channels, speech recognition software to convert the relay operatorβs voice into text, deaf people can read the conversations on their PCs or telephone displays with minimal delay. Captel, the only captioned relay service in the UK, was closed in December 2007 for funding reasons.
Video relay enables sign language users to communicate on the telephone through a sign language interpreter. The sign language user and interpreter interact via PCs and webcams or videophones. Two services currently operate in the UK: Significanβtβs SignVideo service and a fledgling service in Scotland. Last year, video relay services run by the RNID and the BDA closed.
TAG is a consortium of all the UKβs main deaf organisations concerned with e-communications: the British Deaf Association, LINK, National Association of Deafened People, National Deaf Childrenβs Society, Deaf Broadcasting Council, Royal Association in Aid of Deaf People, Deafness Support Network, Royal association in Aid of Deaf People, Royal National Institute for Deaf People, deafPLUS, Hearing Concern and Sense.
World Telecommunication and Information Society (WTIS) Day
The theme of this yearβs WTIS Day is: βConnecting Persons with Disabilities: ICT Opportunities for Allβ. During this yearβs WTIS Day, ITU calls upon all stakeholders (policy makers, regulators, operators and industry) to raise awareness on the need to adopt policies and strategies that would meet the ICT needs of people with disabilities by ensuring that both equipment and services are accessible. This move would not only ensure an inclusive information society, but would also enable Member States to meet their obligations under Article 9 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2006.
World Telecommunication Day has been celebrated annually on 17 May since 1969, marking the founding of ITU and the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention in 1865. It was instituted by the Plenipotentiary Conference in Malaga-Torremolinos in 1973. In November 2005, the World Summit on the Information Society called upon the UN General Assembly to declare 17 May as World Information Society Day to focus on the importance of ICT and the wide range of issues related to the Information Society raised by WSIS. The General Assembly adopted a resolution (A/RES/60/252) in March 2006 stipulating that World Information Society Day shall be celebrated every year on 17 May. In November 2006, the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in Antalya, Turkey, decided to celebrate both events on 17 May as World Telecommunication and Information Society Day.
Stephen Fleming at Palam Communications
Tel: 01635 299116
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