ACCAN Wants Technology Accessible For All
14 August 2013 at 3:31 pm
The Not for Profit Communications Advocacy group, Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has called for new legislation to ensure all Australians are included in the digital age.
ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin told the M-Enabling Australasia 2013 Conference in Sydney on Wednesday that too many consumers were missing out on digital opportunities due to inaccessible technology.
She said in the US, the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act was a model that Australia should follow which would ensure all Australians are on the same path to the “digital future”.
“It would mean all Australians would be able to get the same advantages from the National Broadband Network as it is rolled out,” Corbin said.
Corbin said services that would run via the NBN would provide Australians with access to a range of benefits including e-health services, remote monitoring for assisted living, interactive learning opportunities, employment opportunities, increased connectedness within the community and improved access to communication services.
She said there was “huge potential” for technology to improve the lives of people with disability but it would not “happen by magic”.
Corbin said adopting an Australian Communications and Video Accessibility Act would help Australia implement and achieve the National Disability Strategy.
Corbin said that with the help of technology and support via Disability Care Australia, more and more people with disability would be able to join the workforce.
“Age-related disabilities are also becoming more common due to the ageing population,” she said.
“Ensuring accessibility is considered from the outset will mean that technology can become the great enabler for people with disability rather than a barrier to full participation.
“We will need the Government to develop a roadmap that helps define the future we want and provide the direction and signposts to get us to our end goal.”
Corbin said the Government’s new Digital First policy must incorporate accessibility while the National Transition Strategy, though successful in making many Government websites more accessible, has “only just scratched the surface”.
The Australian Public Service Mobile Roadmap, released in June this year, barely mentions accessibility, she said.
“A roadmap without signposts for accessibility leads nowhere for Australians with disability and the growing number of older Australians,” Corbin said.
“With hundreds of government services looking to provide online-only service options in the next few years we need to move quickly to get universally accessible policies and government procurement plans in place as soon as possible.”
A research report released by Media Access Australia titled Captioning on Video on Demand Services, It’s Time for Australia to Catch Up, found Australia’s leading commercial video-on-demand and catch-up TV content providers were failing to provide captions for hearing or vision impaired consumers.
In the US, the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act will ensure that almost all television programming in the US that is made available on network catch-up services, and on commercial video-on-demand services such as iTunes, will have captions by March 2014.
What Australian accessibility laws could look like:
- An Australian Communications and Video Accessibility Act would provide the last plank in a framework that provides incentives so that no Australian is missing out on the digital age.
- It would not only ensure audio description services on Australian television, but also ensure that access features – such as closed-captions and audio description – follow content across broadcast platforms – whether over the airwaves to TVs or via internet.
- It would ensure the delivery of interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers – in other words, require that VoIP services (such as fixed voice services in your home) meet basic benchmarks to ensure people of all abilities can use a standard phone service. For example, requiring all VoIP standard telephone services are compatible with hearing aids.
- An Australian CVAA would provide access to telecommunications equipment for a significant number of Deafblind Australians.
- It would guarantee that broadcasters responsible for transmitting emergency warnings ensure these messages are accessible with AUSLAN interpreters and captioning.