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A Victory For Deaf And Disabled People

2 May 2002

Deaf and disabled people are to get access to the telephone after a seven year battle.

The Government have just issued a compulsory order for the establishment of a telephone relay service for people who are Deaf, or who have speech or hearing-impairments.

“This is unbelievably good news”, said Victoria Manning one of the original complainants in this Human Rights Case. “We’ve been fighting for access to the telephone for seven years and this news is still sinking in. I can’t believe it’s over”, she continues.

The relay service will be established as a Telecommunications Service Order (TSO), under the Telecommunications Act 2001.

The government aim to have the relay service up and running by the end of the year.

“It feels unreal that I’m going to have the freedom of using the telephone in New Zealand” said Ms. Manning who used a relay service daily when living and working in America several years ago.

“A relay service will have a huge and positive impact on the disabled community in New Zealand. It will increase our independence and reduce our isolation from mainstream society. We will have more employment and businesses opportunities”, she said.

A relay service is a specialised call centre which converts live speech to text and vice versa. The deaf person converses by text on a TTY (teletypewriter) or using a computer modem, and at the other end an ordinary telephone receiver is used. The operator transcribes the live conversation. A relay service provides instant, two-way communication.

“A relay service also means that anyone can phone us”, Ms. Manning explains

“With this decision the Government is sending a message that disabled people are valued members of New Zealand’s society.” A fully inclusive society is the fundamental principle of the New Zealand Disability Strategy.

This move brings New Zealand in line with other developed countries which have had successful relay services for 15 years.

“We also hope that this case till increase awareness of other issues of access for disabled people”

Ends

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