Electronic communications (telecommunications)

Electronic communication products and services are crucial for persons with disabilities to get informed and communicate. By electronic communications or telecommunications, we mean mainly interpersonal communication via telephone, mobile voice and video communication, similar communication over the Internet, and access to the Internet itself. Vital electronic communications services are emergency communications – the services people contact to request emergency medical care, firefighting services or police.

It is important that electronic communications, equipment used for accessing them, including any assistive technologies, are available and affordable to persons with disabilities. Total conversation and real-time text, as well as relay services are means of ensuring accessibility of electronic communication to persons with disabilities. Fully interoperable total conversation and real-time text services are particularly important and must become mainstream services so that persons with disabilities can enjoy right to equal access to telecommunications, including emergency communications services.

It is also crucial that electronic communications and products follow the same requirements on accessibility, such as those defined in the European accessibility standard for information and communication technologies (EN 301 549 v.3.1.1.).

The two relevant EU laws for accessible telecommunications are:

  1. The European Electronic Communications Code

European Electronic Communications Code was adopted by the EU in December 2018. It sets an EU-level legal framework to coordinate national legislation on electronic communications networks and services, from the telephony services and the single European emergency number ‘112’ to basic Internet access that must now be considered as a universal service by EU countries.

The Code aims, among other things, to ensure the provision of good quality, affordable, publicly available electronic communication services to everyone. This also includes ensuring that persons with disabilities enjoy access and choice to these services on an equal basis with others.

To learn more about accessible electronic communications and the Code

2. The European Accessibility Act

The European Accessibility Act is an important law that will ensure accessibility to electronic communications services, including emergency communications by harmonising accessibility requirements for electronic communications services, related products, including emergency answering centres (public safety answering points PSAPs).

The Accessibility Act complements the Electronic Communications Code when it comes to accessibility requirements. For example, the Act covers accessibility of electronic communications services (e.g. telephony services), and consumer terminal equipment which can be used to access those services (e.g. smartphone or tablet with calling capability). It also requires Member States to ensure that the answering of emergency communications to the single European emergency number ‘112’ by the most appropriate PSAP complies with the specific accessibility requirements. Accessibility requirements for services and the single European emergency number ‘112’ are detailed in Annex I of the Act. Click here to visit the webpage dedicated to the European Accessibility Act for more details about the Act.