How To Make Telecom Services Usable By Persons With Disabilities

Differently-abled people or persons with disabilities have to go through many hardships in their lives. While life has never been easy for them, technology has played a vital role in somehow making their lives bit easier. While communication services have become too pervasive and ubiquitous, persons with disabilities (PwDs) still face a lot of challenges in accessing the same. The international telecom union or ITU had earlier expressed concerns that many nations do not have a ICT policy to address the challenges involving persons with disabilities.

TRAI, India’s telecom regulator, however, has come forward with some recommendations in this regard, that, when implemented by telecom stakeholders, would provide enough avenues for the PwDs to access the benefits of IT and communication services.

Here are some of the TRAI’s recommendations on Making ICT accessible for Persons with Disbailities

  • A committee under the aegis of Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities be setup with Members from Department of Telecom (DoT), Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB), Ministry of’Electronics & IT (MeitY), Ministry of Corporate Affairs and Ministry of Finance. This committee will periodically check the status of the PwD policies.

 

  • Global best practices suggested by ITU should be adopted in India.

 

  • Government should mandate the device manufacturers not to curtail the accessibility features available in operating systems in any manner from their devices (manufactured or imported in India).

 

  • Telecom service providers (TSPs) to identify and register PwDs under special category and necessary changes in Customer Acquisition Forms (CAF) should be made to this effect.

 

  • TSPs, MSOs and DTH operators to have a special desks in their call centres/customer support centres to handle calls from PwDs using assistive technologies.

 

  • To facilitate accessibility of emergency services by PwDs, separate desks in each Pubic Safety Answering Point [to be setup. following earlier recommendations made by the Authority on 07.04.2015 regarding “Integrated Emergency Communication and Response System (lECRS)”] to be setup where attendant executive should accept calls/SMS/Social Media calls from PwDs and provide them assistance. The desk would also have Relay Centre to cater to requests from deaf and speech impaired people.

 

  • TSPs, MSOs/DTH and PSAP operators to. provide sensitivity training to their executives to deal with issues of PwDs.

 

  • Specific essential accessibility standards for mobile phones, landline phones and set top boxes have been identified and prescribed.

 

  • Percentages of channel content to be developed in accessible format for PwDs with audio and visual. impairment have been prescribed; with 50% of the channels to be developed in accessible format by next five years.

 

  • By the end of 2020, all mobile handset manufacturers producing 5 or more different models to produce at least one mobile handset satisfying accessibility criteria for PwDs.

 

  • Set Top Box (STB) manufacturers/importers should make/import atleast one model in different variants of STBs in accessible format by 2020.
  • Government to mandate that lCT products including computers, mobile phones, STBs etc procured by Government agencies should be accessible to PwDs and should have associated support documentation and services III accessible format.

 

  • All Government websites to be accessibility compliant to the PwDs.

 

  • Department of Telecom (DoT) and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to instruct TSPs and DTH/MSOs to conduct awareness campaigns regarding accessibility issues, design, affordability, availability of assistive tools and products and about various Government policies/schemes pertaining to accessible lCT that can be availed by PwDs.

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