Availability and affordability of accessible communications services has probably never been as crucial.
The response to covid19 pandemic has demonstrated that lack of accessible communications services means that many persons with disabilities are not able to connect with others which can lead to poor mental health due to isolation and loneliness. Lack of accessible emergency communications is especially alarming as it puts the lives of many persons with disabilities at great risk.
Today we launch the toolkit for transposition for the European Electronic Communications Code [1MB pdf]. This document will help advocate for strong national rules to ensure that persons with disabilities have equal access and choice to good quality, affordable, publicly available electronic communication services, including telephony and internet access services. Importantly, this toolkit will help advocate for accessibility of the single European emergency number ‘112’, and national emergency numbers.
Some of the recommendations in the toolkit include:
- EU countries must ensure the availability and affordability of the universal services stated in the Code (voice communication and internet access), including by providing assistive technologies and specific services and tariffs to persons with disabilities
- Communication service providers must guarantee equal access by complying with the accessibility requirements of the European Accessibility Act [1MB pdf], its forthcoming standards, and relevant European accessibility standard for information and communication technologies (EN 301 549 v.3.1.1.)
- Fully interoperable total conversation and real-time text services (see definitions in the below linked documents) must become mainstream services like current SMS or voice call services
- Emergency communications services must be accessible to persons with disabilities through total conversation and real-time-text, and public warnings must be accessible through more than one sensory channel and be easy to understand
- National regulatory authorities must have a specific mandate on accessibility, with dedicated human and financial resourcing and adequate training on accessibility for persons with disabilities.
You can use the both the full document and the summary version to influence national policies in the EU. Governments need to adapt their national laws until 21 December 2020, so act now: contact your national regulatory authority and ask to be connected with their experts on electronic communications accessibility!