TRAI expressed concern that persons with disabilities were "often not able to access these ICT services on account of lack of necessary accessibility features or unaffordable prices of the equipment or due to unavailability of required services".
Telecom regulator TRAI today began a dialogue on making ICT accessible for the disabled, saying more policy interventions are needed in this area where benefits of technology have not been fully realised. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), releasing its latest consultation paper on Information and Communication Technology (ICT), has also sought industry views on whether handset makers should be mandated to manufacture at least one model for the disabled with assistive technology features such as hearing, visual aids and emergency buttons. The consultation paper has also sought the industry’s comments on disabilities that need to be included in the enabling framework, and reasons for benefits not reaching the persons with disabilities (PwDs), and corrective measures that need to be undertaken. It has also asked if information on billing and pricing needs to be provided in a form that is accessible by PwDs. TRAI expressed concern that persons with disabilities were “often not able to access these ICT services on account of lack of necessary accessibility features or unaffordable prices of the equipment or due to unavailability of required services”.
This is despite the fact that telecom and broadcasting services have become ubiquitous over the past two decades. “Since access to telecom and broadcasting services has become an essential component of economic growth and upliftment of people, it is important that the necessary steps are taken to ensure that the PwDs are able to access these services and barriers that hinder this access are identified and removed,” TRAI said. Typically, release of a consultation paper marks the beginning of crafting of a framework or set of recommendations by the regulator. The regulator then holds an open house with stakeholders, discussing all aspects of an issue threadbare, before finalising its views.
TRAI noted that the government, industry and the civil society had joined hands to ensure protection of right of persons with disabilities and that technological advancements too had brought to fore a variety of aids, assistive devices and services. “…corresponding changes in services or content is yet to come in the country implying thereby that the benefits of ICT development have not yet reached the PwDs,” TRAI said. TRAI was of the view that the additional policy interventions need to be “explored and implemented to address the unique challenges” faced by the PwD community. The consultation paper aims to identify key areas that require policy intervention and understand barriers being faced by the persons with disabilities in accessing telecom and broadcasting services. This will help in working out affirmative actions at the policy level, TRAI added. The regulator has sought comments on the issue by January 22, 2018 and the deadline for counter comments is February 5, 2018.