A guide to mobile handsets, tablets, apps and software for people with disabilities has been launched by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).
The Accessible Telecoms project – which takes the form of a website and helpline – allows users to select the accessibility features they need from a device and search through the suitable models.
Launched today covering mainstream mobile and fixed line handsets, teletypewriters and accessories; the project will eventually cover other devices, apps and assistive telecommunications equipment.
The project, which is delivered through the Information on Disability Education and Awareness Service (IDEAS) website and call centre, is funded with a National Readiness grant from the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA).
“There is an acknowledged lack of up-to-date, appropriate and independent information about telecommunications equipment and services available for Australians with disability,” said Wayne Hawkins, ACCAN director of inclusion.
“We’re pleased that the NDIA understands the significance of this project in assisting Australians with disability to be able to utilise telecommunications to enable greater participation in all aspects of Australian life – economic, social, and cultural and community,” he added.
The free service also provides referrals for training, set-up, on-going support and equipment provision.
Users select the type of device – for example mobile phone – and then can select from a wide range of features, such as adjustable font size, real-time-text capability and voice recognition for dialling. The devices with the features selected are then shown, along with purchasing information.
“It may be a surprise to many people who live without disabilities that accessing truly accessible telecoms hardware and software is very complex. While apps and screen modifications on smart phones can be of some assistance to people with disability, these specifications may not be right for people with particular mobility, sensory, and memory or cognitive conditions,” said IDEAS CEO, Diana Palmer.
“Through Accessible Telecoms, we’re excited to offer people with disability up-to-date and independent telecommunications resources that can be accessed by web, live chat or phone. This is a momentous undertaking, as it marks the first time that people with disabilities will be able to engage with a resource to help them determine exactly what they want from their telecommunications products.”
Alastair McEwin, disability discrimination commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), welcomed the service.
“It is so important that we facilitate connectedness and participation across our communities, and creating accessible communications are essential to that,” he said.
Last July the AHRC launched a consultation on the intersection of human rights and technology, including a focus on accessibility.
“Some technology companies have been pioneers, making such objectives central to the design and development of services and products. Others have paid little or no attention to these aims,” the commission wrote in its issues paper.
Close to 40 per cent of all complaints made to the commission in 2016-17 were lodged under the Disability Discrimination Act. A third of those related to goods and services, many of them new technology.
Accessible Telecoms can be found by visiting www.IDEAS.org.au, or by phoning IDEAS on 1800 029 904.
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