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Game-changing Service for Disability Telecommunication Access Launches

22 January 2019 at 4:29 pm
Maggie Coggan
An accessible telecoms project has been launched in a bid to fight the growing information gap on accessible services for people with disability.   

Maggie Coggan | 22 January 2019 at 4:29 pm


Game-changing Service for Disability Telecommunication Access Launches
22 January 2019 at 4:29 pm

An accessible telecoms project has been launched in a bid to fight the growing information gap on accessible services for people with disability.   

The service, hailed an Australian first, was officially launched on Tuesday by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) and will provide information via a hotline and interactive website about the accessibility features of fixed and mobile handsets, teletypewriters, and the accessories which make them usable for people with disability.

The project was funded by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), and Wayne Hawkins, ACCAN director of inclusion, said it demonstrated the agency understood how this issue affected people with disability.

“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,” Hawkins said.

“This will provide an opportunity for people with disability to get connected in the same way as everyone else.”

The program is run through the Information on Disability Education and Awareness Service’ (IDEAS) website and call centre.

IDEAS CEO Diana Palmer said disability access to technology was an issue people without disability rarely considered.

“It may be a surprise to many people who live without disabilities that accessing truly accessible telecoms hardware and software is very complex,” Palmer said.

“While apps and screen modifications on smartphones 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.”

She said IDEAS was excited to offer people with disability up-to-date, independent resources for the first time ever.

“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,” she said.

Last year, the Australian Human Rights Commission launched a consultation on the intersection of human rights and technology, and found a need to better design technology with a focus on accessibility.

And in 2016-17, close to 40 per cent of all complaints made to the commission were lodged under the Disability Discrimination Act, with a third of those related to goods and services, many of them new technology.  

Disability discrimination commissioner Alastair McEwin said the new service had the potential to provide the missing information the disability community needed to feel more connected.

“It is so important that we facilitate connectedness and participation across our communities,  and creating accessible communications are essential to that,” McEwin said.

ACCAN said while it currently couldn’t provide information on accessible tablets and mobile apps, expanding the service was on the horizon.

Accessible Telecoms can be found by visiting, or by phoning IDEAS on 1800 029 904.

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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