INDEPENDENT NEWS

Telecom's Cellular Network less useful for blind

Published: Fri 11 Oct 2002 12:03 AM
From Association Of Blind Citizens Of New Zealand Inc
Telecom's Cellular Network To Become Less Useful To The Blind
The announcement by Telecom that it is to close its Wordup service at the end of this month has caused concern among blind cell phone users.
At its Annual Conference in Christchurch last weekend, the Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand passed a resolution expressing concern about the Wordup closure, seeking an urgent meeting with Telecom to urge it to reconsider.
Association of Blind Citizens President, Vaughan Dodd, says he is personally aware of some blind people who chose Telecom as their cellular network specifically because of Wordup.
"The cell phone is increasingly becoming a visual tool. It is not just a means of speaking with someone. Sighted people are using their phones for text messaging, WAP browsing, locating nearby amenities, and even reading e-mail. But if you can't see the screen, you are shut out of all these services. Wordup at least gave us some access, and now Telecom is removing it with apparently no consideration for the impact this will have on blind cell phone users".
The Telecom Wordup service allows Telecom Mobile customers to access news, weather, sports, lotto results, and a range of other information by saying simple words and hearing the information spoken by human readers. Wordup users can hear their e-mail read by a synthetic voice, and even reply to their e-mail by voice. It also contains a phone book feature completely controllable by voice and the web, which is of use to those who have phones whose memory functions are difficult for a blind person to use.
Mr Dodd says he has been made aware of blind professionals who, while they may be able to afford a WAP and e-mail capable phone, can't use it, and instead have used Wordup to check e-mail on the road. Those professionals are now going to struggle to remain competitive.
He says the Association is calling on Telecom to put the closure on hold pending a proper study of the impact of Wordup on the blind and other people with disabilities.
"After the very clear message telecommunications companies have been sent regarding the relay service for the deaf, telecommunications providers surely must understand that they should consider all their customers, and provide a range of services that meet various special access requirements," Mr Dodd concluded.

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