Communications minister Ed Vaizey has told telecommunications companies to take action on video relay services for deaf people, or be faced with government action – full story here on the VRS Today website: http://www.vrstoday.com/2011/11/09/minister-to-telecoms-providers-take-action-on-vrs-or-government-will-intervene/
Vaizey’s comments are seen as a breakthrough by the campaign. There was a roundtable meeting in October between the government, telecommunications companies, and deaf organisations. Vaizey said on Wednesday’s episode of BBC2’s See Hear:
“I’ve said to the operators, if you want a system that works for you that is cost effective but provides opportunities for the Deaf community, come to the table with your own solutions. So that’s the invitation I’ve given to telecoms operators. And if they don’t come to the table with that solution, then I’m afraid, Government, through Ofcom, will impose a solution on them.”
What’s positive about Vaizey’s comments is that he seems to recognise that Ofcom’s current proposals – including a quota of just 30 minutes a month to use sign language on the phone (which I recently argued against in this Guardian blog) – are inadequate. The onus is now on the telecommunications companies to come up with new measures that offer deaf people far more.
Let’s hope the companies can come up with a solution that deaf people can regard as a significant improvement (deaf people would be offended if the quota were simply marginally increased, for example) and that, if they can’t, Ofcom and the government are robust in introducing measures that achieve the equality that deaf people deserve.