Article 9 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities says that the countries parties to the Convention shall take appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have access, on an equal basis with others, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies.

As progress in communication technology is of particular advantage to deaf children, it is very important that this policy paper on telecommunication should focus on all aspects of modern communication technologies.

Real-time communication is an essential component of daily living. However, although nowadays there are many different technologies for telecommunication e.g. e-mail, whilst having a useful part to play in deaf and hard-of-hearing people´s lives, they are not real-time technologies, therefore, are in no way a satisfactory substitute for full interactive communication.

Deaf children should be able to access all telephone services, facilities and equipments in a functionally equivalent way to hearing children, and at an equivalent cost.

Textphones, videophones, appropriately adapted mobile phones, messaging services and amplified and hearing aid compatible telephones, and other assistive devices, should be readily available at no additional cost.

As textphone calls take much longer than voice calls and are therefore considerable more expensive, a rebate or discount scheme should be available to deaf children and their families, to compensate them for the additional cost of text calls.

Relay service
A relay service which enables deaf children to communicate with voice users, through an independent, confidential operator service, should be available to facilitate effective telecommunication with hearing people who have no compatible systems.

Emergency services and others

Essential and important telephone facilities, such as emergency and operator services, should be accessible for deaf children, through telephone, SMS etc.

Public services and particularly the emergency services should be able to answer without delay to text or video messages as well as audio ones.

Manufacturers and industry
Manufacturers should produce suitable hardware and software solutions, available for fixed and mobile usage, to facilitate inter-European and national communication. Manufacturers should also ensure the compatibility of the different systems.

The telecommunications industry should be encouraged to share in the cost of providing a fully equivalent service to avoid deaf and hard-of-hearing users and their families paying the additional costs of accessing any network. The industry should be encouraged to include deaf children need’s in the design and development of new technologies, in partnership with local member organizations, with the goal of making all future technologies accessible to deaf children.

Industry should be required to give publicity to existing services and devices for access to telecommunication for deaf children.

Those services and devices should be available for deaf people in the same shops/ distributors as the rest of the population. These channels of selling and distribution must be accessible.

General Assembly
Turku, August 2011