Updates

Rights of persons with disabilities

2019

The European Union (EU) Parliament has approved the enactment of the European Disabilities Act. This is considered as an important first step that will pave the way for EU legislation to that will ensure that products and services become accessible for persons with disabilities. 

More importantly the Act will ensure that people living with disabilities within the EU have access to information Communication Technology (ICT)s services and devices such as computers, smartphones, tablets, TV sets, banking ATM and services, payment terminals, e-books and e-readers, e-commerce websites and mobile apps and ticketing machines.

Through Facebook Connectivity, Facebook is launching several initiatives in partnership with global operators, equipment manufacturers among other partners to provide high-quality Internet connectivity to more people. The initiatives aim at giving more people a voice, strengthening communities, and creating new economic opportunities. They include: (a) new partnerships and technologies to extend rural connectivity in Peru and Mexico, (b) open source technology to enable new operator business models – Magma in Latin America, (c) new investments in fiber connectivity in Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda (d) Express wi-fi  platform to provide people with fast, affordable, and reliable access to the Internet, and (e) high-speed connectivity to urban and suburban communities through growing the millimeter-wave gigabit wireless ecosystem with Terragraph in Malaysia, Brazil, California, and Greece. Through these initiatives, Facebook endeavors to address some of the global Internet connectivity challenges of accessibility, affordability, and relevance through a multi-faceted approach.

Wireless RERC has published a Mobile Phone Accessibility Review as input to the US Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) biennial evaluation of the impact of the commission's regulations that implement the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) and measure compliance. The report provides 'input on the state of accessibility of “mobile” or wireless services, including basic phones and feature phones (collectively referred to herein as non-smartphones), as well as smartphones'. The report contains comparative analyses and graphs showing different accessibility features on a variety of different devices, addressing different types of disabilities including vision, hearing, cognition, and mobility/dexterity.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) published a report on the use of misleading or aggressive retail sales practices by Canada’s large telecommunications carriers. The report identified aggressive tactics and noted that these tactics present difficulties for individuals who may be more vulnerable due to their age, disability, or language barrier, and who already face obstacles to making informed choices. Consumer and disability advocacy groups explained how these sales practices can have a disproportionately negative impact on Canadians with disabilities, who already face challenges in obtaining accessible products, services, and information.

Google has launched two new apps that will cater to the deaf and  the hearing impaired. In a recent blog post, the company mentioned the apps Live Transcribe and Sound Amplifier, designed mainly for the Android OS. The apps which come pre-installed on Pixel 3 phones in accessibility settings will also be available in the Google Play Store. According to the post, Live Transcript is an app that automatically transcribes speech in near-real time allowing people to communicate in peculiar situations where communications would be difficult. Sound Amplifier on the other hand is an app designed for people with hearing loss, allowing such users to tweak sound settings to improve the quality of their hearing.

The US advocacy group The Future of Privacy Forum in consultation with the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) Technology Forum published a white paper exploring the benefits, challenges, and privacy tensions concerning IoT and people with disabilities. The paper describes the privacy considerations of IoT for people with disabilities and offers several recommendations for companies and policymakers on how to address the issue. Main recommendations are: prioritising inclusive design for people with disabilities, consideration of the sensitive nature of the personal data of people with disabilities when designing IoT devices, and asking policymakers to consider the risks and benefits of IoT for people with disabilities in policy decisions.

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