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November 29, 2003

Phones fail disabled people

From: The Age, Australia - Nov 29, 2003

People with disabilities are being disadvantaged because they do not receive equal access to mobile phones and telephones, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) said.

A forum on telecommunications for people with disabilities is being held in Canberra, featuring HREOC Acting Disability Discrimination Commissioner Sev Ozdowski.

"Deaf people using text phones have little access to the mobile phone network; hearing impaired people can't use most standard phones, which don't have a volume control; and blind people can't text because there is not a reasonably priced alternative to using the screen of a mobile phone," Dr Ozdowski said in a statement.

The government, regulators and industry needed to work together to prevent this type of discrimination, he said.

The forum will examine themes raised in the HREOC research paper When the Tide Comes In: Towards Accessible Telecommunications for People with Disabilities in Australia.

Issues include the need for an industry code on payphones and the need for a telecommunications disability standard.

"I hope that agreed plans for the telecommunications industry can come out of this forum so we can remove discrimination in these areas," Dr Ozdowski said.

©2003 AAP