Blind World Magazine

How can technology be made more accessible for excluded groups?

October 25, 2005.
eGov Monitor, UK.

Charities and the DTI call for EU action

UK charities have joined forces with the Department of Trade and Industry to explore how technology can be made more accessible for excluded groups.

A conference looking at how Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can be made more accessible to millions of disabled and older people across Europe was held in London last week.

The coalition called on European Union decision makers for universal access to telecommunications services and terminals for disabled and older people, along with easy and comprehensive access to subtitling, audio description and signing on TV, a permanent standardisation committee for disabled and older users, a more accessible internet and increased availability and usability of mainstream electronic consumer goods.

Delegates heard that much existing and emerging technology is inaccessible to the 82 million adults in Europe who have a hearing loss and the 30 million that have a sight loss. Action to address this exclusion is a crucial part of the European Unions's quest to increase employment and growth.

Guido Gybels, director of new technologies at the RNID said access to ICT was "vital" in order to take part fully in society. "Deaf and hard of hearing people form a large proportion of Europe's population. Provisions like interactive texting and subtitling have great potential to bring benefits to all European citizens. It is crucial that EU legislation and standards are developed to ensure technologies used in delivering these services and products are fully inclusive," he said.

Richard Orme, head of accessibility at RNIB, said: "Technology, when applied appropriately, can open up new vistas for learning and employment. We are delighted that action is being taken at an EU level through the recent Commission Communication on eAccessibility. We also welcome the UK Government's commitment to addressing these issues. The productive partnership between government, industry and people with disabilities must continue long after the conference has concluded."

Industry minister Alun Michael said Europe had made "great advances" in electronic design and technology. "We have to accelerate our development in the next generation of ICT, secondly - and absolutely vital for the world - the next generation of electronic products and services must be designed and delivered so that all of our citizens, including elderly groups and people with disabilities can fully participate in the information society," he added.

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