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Able Australia, who received an ACCAN Grant in 2010, have produced a report calling for better support for deafblind Australians to access the customised telecommunications solutions that are vital to their day-to-day lives. The report, Telecommunications and Deafblind Australians provides the results of a survey of 71 respondents, and is the first of its kind to focus specifically on telecommunications access and usage by people experiencing deafblindness.

 The report identifies the following broad challenges deafblind people face in accessing telecommunications:

  • Insufficient funding assistance to purchase required specialised equipment
  • Lack of training or support for deafblind people to learn how to use telecommunication equipment
  • Insufficient funding for support staff and Interpreters who can facilitate this training

Able Australia CEO Celestine Hare said deafblind people are being marginalised because they cannot access basic technology, like mobiles, due to the cost involved in customising the equipment for their use.

“A lot of deafblind people are surviving on a pension and they simply can’t stretch the budget to buy the equipment they need,” Ms Hare said.“Our report recommends that the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, in reviewing the National Relay Service, include a review of current disability equipment program...This is an opportune time for government to consider funding an expanded telecommunication equipment program. The program would cover adaptive technology for landline, mobile and internet products and subsidies for access to mainstream services, such as internet plans, when required by people who are deafblind,” Ms Hare said.

In the interim the report recommends that the state-based aids and equipment programs expand the range of eligible devices to include adaptive technologies, which enable people with deafblindness to access mainstream telecommunication devices.

Currently in Australia it is estimated that there are 332,000 deafblind people (Access Economics 2010). People who are deafblind face a range of challenges in communicating with others. A person who is deafblind uses residual vision and/or hearing, and they may use a combination of Auslan, tactile Auslan, speech, and assistive technologies. Flexible telecommunications options need to be available to people who are deafblind along with support in customising solutions to their individual needs.

The report contains information on telecommunications solutions for deafblind people that will be hosted on a website developed for the deafblind community by someone who is deafblind himself. The site is accessible in beta www.dbt.org.au.

Read the full report

 

Download Telecommunications and Deafblind Australians [Adobe Acrobat PDF - 470 KB]

Download Telecommunications and Deafblind Australians [Word Document - 439 KB]