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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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‘E-accessibility’ for everyone

Friday, June 17, 2005

Meg recently gave a short speech opening a session at a conference organised by the Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID) at the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI). The session dealt with new technology and its impact on the lives of those affected by deafness and hearing loss.   


Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. I am delighted to be here today to open this session of your conference where the focus is one of technology.  This afternoon you will be exploring the biomedical issues surrounding hearing loss and will learn about the research and development which RNID and others are supporting to make a difference and improve accessibility both at work and in everyday life.


The Government shares your vision of a world where deafness and hearing loss are not barriers to opportunity and fulfilment.  We have already taken great strides to advance the rights and improve the opportunities of disabled people, we have:

  • Established the Disability Rights Commission
  • Extended disability discrimination legislation to make it unlawful for employers of all sizes to discriminate against disabled people in all aspects of employment;
  • improved access for disabled people to goods, facilities and services;
  • Introduced legislation, and funded changes that improve access to education for over 1 million disabled young people;
  • Brought into force regulations covering rail, buses and coaches to improve access for disabled people.


And there is still more to come.  We have recently passed legislation to introduce a public sector duty to promote equality for disabled people. The Equality Bill, which had its second reading in the House of Lords yesterday, will establish a new Commission for Equality and Human Rights to promote equality and tackle discrimination in whatever form it arises.


There is also a lot of important work to be done in addition to passing new legislation.  The issue of fair and easy access to products and services is becoming increasingly important.  The Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) strongly supports ensuring that everyone can access information on the web, for example using plain English or subtitles for video sound clips. Known as ‘e-accessibility’, this will make consumer products and services accessible to all disabled people.


Towards the end of this afternoon, you will have the opportunity to debate the issues around the future of television and other consumer products with speakers from the consumer electronics industry, the BBC and BskyB.   Developments in television present an opportunity that must be seized - it is crucial that digital switchover addresses the concerns of deaf and hard of hearing people.  In this context I am delighted that RNID has been an active member of the Consumer Expert Panel set up by Lord McIntosh to look at issues such as these.


The DTI has benefited greatly from your knowledge and advice.  I am therefore particularly pleased that we have been able to help with today’s venue and I look forward to receiving the RNID’s report of this conference and learning of the main outcomes from this afternoon’s discussions.


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