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Welcome to the latest current affairs that impact communications consumers. 

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A lively two-day event being held in Alice Springs this Thursday and Friday (26th-27th July) will focus on the unique communications needs of people living and working in remote Australia and how best to deliver them. The event will include representatives from Federal, state and territory governments, NBN Co, members of the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee, community organisations, researchers and technical specialists.

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Great news! Australia’s first-ever audio described television will be broadcast on ABC1 from August 5 this year. Audio Description (AD) is an additional verbal commentary that complements the existing soundtrack of a program for people who are blind or vision impaired. It is a narration that explains what is happening visually on screen during a television program.

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Registrations are now open for the third annual ACCAN National Conference being held in Sydney on 5th and 6th September 2012. This year’s theme is Delivering for Consumers. Over two days, delegates will hear about the new competitive environment, following the structural separation of Telstra and the National Broadband Network rollout; regulatory changes to consumer protection; and explore big-picture issues like privacy and financial hardship measures. We’ll also take a look at new and emerging technologies and investigate whether mainstream technologies can deliver for consumers with disability.

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Privacy Awareness Week (29 April – 5 May) is an annual event during which the Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities join forces to remind everyone to take steps to protect their own privacy and safeguard personal information about others that they might hold.

“Privacy is recognised in many countries, including Australia, as a human right,” says Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim. “Serious consequences can arise when someone’s privacy is breached and we all have responsibilities to look after the personal information we handle.”

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ACCAN was honoured to receive the 2011 Organisation of the Year Award at the Australian Sign Language Interpreters’ Association (ASLIA) NSW & Deaf Australia (NSW) awards ceremony held in Sydney on Saturday April 21.

As an organisation ACCAN is committed to accessibility issues and we are fortunate to have two specialist disability policy advisers on our team. ACCAN is dedicated to ensuring interpreters and captioning are available at all our public events, that our website is WCAG 2.0AA compliant. We also make information available in Auslan, audio formats and Easy English wherever possible.

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A record 76 groups and individuals applied for a total of $250,000 in funding in the 2012 round of the ACCAN Grants Scheme, which closed on April 2.

ACCAN Research and Grants Officer Robin McNaughton said this year’s applications were of a very high standard and a great mix of projects targeting a diverse range of consumer issues.

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In very good news for people who are Deaf, hearing-impaired or speech-impaired, the National Relay Service (NRS) has announced that callers to Triple Zero (000) using internet relay will receive queue priority. But while this update is a step in the right direction, many people with disability still can’t make emergency calls.

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For communications consumers, the challenge of overcoming information overload to choose a new product and service is sometimes just too much. As one participant in the Seeking Straight Answers research puts it, "[I just want] someone to do the work, someone who knows what they're doing to find me the best deal...There's so many things you've gotta do that the inconvenience of doing all that outweighs any benefits you're going to get".

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Complaints from small businesses about their telecommunications services increased 52 per cent in the last financial year, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) reports in the latest issue of TIO Talks, published today.

More than 22,000 complaints were made in 2010-11 by small businesses unable to resolve issues with service providers. Complaints about inadequate or incorrect customer service advice, poor mobile phone coverage, broken promises and bill disputes were the most common issues.

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