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Commission Welcomes Service For Deaf

02/05/02

Commission Welcomes Government’s Decision To Establish Service For Deaf

The Human Rights Commission welcomes the Government’s announcement today that a voice/text relay service* will be established as a Telecommunications Service Obligation (TSO), under the Telecommunications Act 2001. The Act requires telecommunications companies to provide services that are defined as TSOs.

The service will give speech-impaired, hearing impaired and Deaf New Zealanders real access to telephone services. The provision of the relay service brings New Zealand into line with many other developed countries including Australia

This announcement follows a report to the Prime Minister by the Commission voicing 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 paid tribute to the persistence and determination of the complainants, Kim Robinson and Victoria Manning, and others in the Deaf community who originally brought the matter to the Commission, and have pursued it through numerous setbacks since 1995.

Warren Lindberg said that the decision was an important signal that measures to ensure equality for marginalised groups need to be recognised as fundamental human rights. "This is a practical step that will enable a significant number of New Zealanders to participate more fully in society. This benefits all of us," he said.

* A voice/text relay service enables speech- and hearing-impaired people to engage in real-time, two-way communication. At one end of the line, a teletypewriter (TTY) or telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD) enables the speech- or hearing-impaired person to converse using typed text, while at the other end, an ordinary telephone receiver is used. An intermediary call centre converts the conversation either from text to voice or vice versa.

Ends

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