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Telecommunications Charter

Telecommunications equipment and service providers, regulators, Government departments and user organisations are invited to adopt this Charter.


Telecommunication services play a fundamental and increasing role in social and economic life and it is therefore important that they are accessible to all. Elderly and disabled people, along with their friends and families, represent a large and growing proportion of consumers who are ready and waiting to buy telecommunication products and services.

We are all "less able" at some point in our lives, especially in old age. At any time of life we may find ourselves disabled by our environment: unable to hear in noisy places; unable to see in poor light; unable to concentrate in a distracting open plan office, for example.

The principle of inclusive design acknowledges that people with disabilities are far from being a niche market. Many features that make products and services accessible to disabled people make those products and services easier for everyone to use. Products like the ‘Big Button’ phone are a commercial success as well as a socially responsible concept.

Disability need not result in exclusion from social or economic life if appropriate provision is made. In the UK the Disability Discrimination Act will in future give a legislative basis for such provision.

Article 8 of the EC Revised Voice Telephony Directive says that "Member States shall, where appropriate, take specific measures to ensure equal access to and affordability of fixed public telephone services, including directory services, for disabled users and users with special social needs."

By adopting Charter, organisations will commit themselves to take practical steps towards making telecommunication facilities and services accessible to all. For equipment providers, this will mean adopting inclusive design principles. Telecommunication service providers will indicate by agreeing to adhere to the Charter their intention to comply with current legislation and regulatory requirements and, further, to use their best efforts to meet the needs of the growing population of elderly and disabled consumers.

The Charter

  1. Telecommunication facilities and services should be accessible to all.
  2. The needs of people with disabilities should be taken into account in the design of any new telecommunication equipment or service. Terminal equipment should be designed for the widest possible market. Network services should adequately support relevant special terminal functions so that all users experience equivalent end-to-end service.
  3. Where inclusive design is not possible, provision should be made for people with disabilities to access the service by means of additional equipment and services.
  4. People with disabilities should, as far as possible, be able to use telecommunication services at prices equivalent to those without disabilities. Any additional costs of providing access to all should not be borne solely by people with disabilities.
  5. Providers of telecommunication equipment and services and regulatory authorities should consult regularly with disabled users about their access requirements and take appropriate action. Equally, organisations representing elderly people and people with disabilities should be prepared to contribute their knowledge and experience.
  6. Telecommunication products and services that improve and increase access for disabled people should be actively advertised and promoted, with information also available in accessible formats.

PhoneAbility is the independent UK focal point for telecommunications and the needs of disabled and elderly people. The group acts as a catalyst in this area by organising conferences and seminars on telecommunications and disability. It also acts as the UK reference group to the European project COST 219bis on telecommunications: Access by Disabled and Elderly People.

PhoneAbility will be publishing a list of organisations who have stated that they will be adhering to this charter. Please us if your organisation should be included on this list.



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