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Ensure Telephone Services For Deaf Citizens

Commission Calls On Prime Minister To Ensure Telephone Services For Deaf Citizens


The Human Rights Commission is calling for Government to require the telecommunications industry to provide a voice/text relay service* that will give speech-impaired, hearing impaired and Deaf New Zealanders real access to telephone services.

In a report to the Prime Minister released today, the Commission voiced its opinion that failure to provide a voice/text relay service is a case of discrimination under the Human Rights Act.

Human Rights Commissioner Warren Lindberg said that, as a result of a series of complaints, the Commission had been attempting to reach a negotiated agreement with the industry for seven years and now feels that its options have run out.

“The Commission considers that a lack of access to a voice telephony service not only creates greater health and safety risks for Deaf people than for the hearing population, it also significantly reduces employment opportunities and contributes to social isolation”.

Mr Lindberg said that the technology to make New Zealand’s telephone services accessible to people with hearing or speech impairments has been available in Australia, Canada, UK, USA and other developed countries for years.

“The Commission believes that it is reasonable to expect telecommunications service providers to accommodate the special needs of speech-impaired, hearing-impaired and Deaf people by contributing to the provision of such services”.

“The only options now left to resolve the issue are either for Government to use its powers to require the industry to co-operate via provision of a voice/text relay, or to abandon the complainants to a lengthy and indeterminate pursuit of the matter through the Courts”.

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