Online Access (Disabled People)

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 16th October 2014.

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Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office) 9:30 am, 16th October 2014

What steps he is taking to support people with a disability to get online.

Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

Last month the charity Becoming Visible arranged for my hon. Friend Catherine McKinnell and me to meet a group of profoundly deaf constituents. I was struck by how much they wanted to participate and engage and, in particular, to find jobs—but not to be paid less than the minimum wage—and also by how excluded they felt by the lack of British sign language accessibility for the web. I am sure that there is a technological solution. What technologies is the Minister examining that could help those with disabilities, especially the profoundly deaf, to get online?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Culture Media and Sport)

I share the hon. Lady’s concern. I have been encouraging the use of what is known as the video relay system, which enables people to talk to a British sign language interpreter online. I have written to the top 100 FTSE companies, but very few have replied, and I intend to follow that up soon.

One of the things that held the programme back was a costing of £100 million, which I considered fanciful. When BT installed the system, the costing was between £15,000 and £20,000. The system is very cheap, and companies should install it. The Government should install it as well, and I am trying to encourage my colleagues to ensure that they do.