Telcos must learn to design for life

5 Nov 2008

Telecoms providers will need to work harder to use universal design principles to ensure all users – including those with disabilities – can use their products and services.

At a workshop in Croke Park today, the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) and the National Disability Authority (NDA) held a workshop on the importance of universal design in future products.

Universal design means designing products and services that can be used by people of any ability, age or size, without the need for special adaptations.

Future Human

“Universal design is about getting the design right at the start by being aware of different needs and abilities,” explained Dr Angela Kerins, chairperson of the NDA.

“It not only benefits the public in general, but also those who produce goods and services. It is important to be able to understand and take account of human difference so that everyone can interact with their environment to the best of their ability.”

A survey by ComReg last year found that people with disabilities are less likely than the general population to have a mobile phone or to shop for one. Just 27pc of people with disabilities shopped around for a mobile phone.

The survey found that 44pc of people with disabilities thought special equipment for the mobile phone is too expensive to buy.

In addition, only one in four people with disabilities use the internet.
ComReg commissioner Alex Chisholm said: “One of ComReg’s key responsibilities is to ensure that all communications users – including users with disability – derive maximum benefit in terms of choice, price and quality.

“As communications technology develops and improves, ComReg believes it is incumbent on operators to ensure that their products and services can be accessed by all users. Universal design is good design,” Chisholm said.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years