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July 21, 2003

High-tech world excludes the Deaf

From:, Canada - Jul 21, 2003

Cell phones still not accessible for them - association chief

The Gazette

The deaf community has faced a constant struggle to gain access to everyday technology, says an official at the 14th Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf.

"Cell phones still aren't accessible for the deaf," said James Roots, the executive director of the Canadian Association of the Deaf, one of the conference's organizers.

"Of course, 25 years ago, deaf people had no way of using a telephone," Roots said, adding pagers and other telecommunications devices have since opened new doors.

Technology is a key topic at this week's conference, which opened yesterday at the Palais des Congrès.

Held in Canada for the first time in its 50-year history, it brings together about 2,000 delegates from more than 75 countries around issues of education, employment and health for the world's deaf population.

Most delegates are deaf and address assemblies using one of three sign-language systems, including Quebec Sign Language, or QSL.

A team of 70 interpreters will help ease communications between the three systems, on top of offering French-English translation.

Among other goals, organizers hope to "raise awareness and knowledge about the skills and needs of deaf people in the general population," Roots said.

Issues on the table also include the plight of deaf people in developing countries - an estimated 80 per cent of the world's deaf population lives in the southern hemisphere.

The World Federation of the Deaf, a nongovernmental organization with United Nations status, was created in 1951 and represents as many as 70 million deaf people worldwide.

The conference runs until Saturday.

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