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Australia has the potential to be a leader in harnessing the technologies of the National Broadband Network to benefit consumers with disabilities, ACCAN Australia’s peak communications consumer organisation said today.

A new international study commissioned by ACCAN reports on 16 high-speed broadband applications that can provide enormous benefits to people with disabilities.

“This is ground-breaking research into how the innovative use of high speed broadband can deliver potentially life-transforming services for consumers with disabilities,” Allan Asher, CEO of ACCAN said. “If Australia were to adopt these uses it would set the standard in international best practice with this platform.”

“Australia could become one of the first countries in the world to introduce nation-wide TV-based video telephones using high speed broadband for instance. This would improve comprehension of conversations as well as having a social benefit of minimising feelings of isolation and loneliness.

“The combining of broadcasting and super fast broadband also presents many new exciting applications such as high-quality digital signing for Deaf people that is synchronised with broadcast television programs.

Mr Asher said the National Broadband Network could not claim to have universal access unless the nearly 4 million Australians or 20 per cent of the population who have some form of disability can make use of the technology.

“The report recommends several ways of how this technology can be used to maximise the quality of life and communications experience of consumers but really the possibilities are endless.

“High-speed broadband services promise to have major positive impacts on the lives of people with disabilities, but this won’t happen by itself. The government needs to build in measures that improve accessibility by funding pilot projects for the social good of the community,” he said

The study was conducted between November 2009 and January 2010 and discusses the uses of broadband applications in Europe, the United States and Japan.

Titled Broadband Solutions for Consumers with Disabilities, it will be launched at the Communications Alliance Broadband and Beyond 2010 Conference in Sydney today and can be viewed on the ACCAN web site. Follow the launch on Twitter.

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