Telstra launches communications initiatives for disabled Australians

Telco unveils portal for specialised smartphone selection, removes CAPTCHAs, pursue open captioning

The header of Telstra portal for people with disability.

The header of Telstra portal for people with disability.

As part of its sixth, three-year Disability Action Plan, Telstra has unveiled three new initiatives aimed at supporting persons with disability in accessing communications services.

The services were revealed today (September 16) by Telstra consumer group managing director, Karsten Wildberger, at the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) ‘Connecting Today’s Consumer’ conference in Sydney.

The telecommunications provider has created a portal accessible via the front page of its web site (at Telstra.com) which enables criteria-based selection of mobile devices. This is based on the Mobile Manufacturers Forum (MMF) Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative.

The 20 filters are segmented into ‘vision’, ‘dexterity’, ‘hearing’, ‘hardware’, and ‘cognition’, giving users the ability to select certain features in order to find the most appropriate device from the 16 listed products (from Apple, HTC, LG, Nokia, Samsung, Sony and Telstra itself).

Telstra claims to be first carrier globally to provide customers with direct access to this information, and expects to simplify purchasing for the four million Australians living with disabilities, as well as seniors.

“We want all our customers to have a brilliant experience with us, and helping them find the devices and apps that best meet their needs is fundamental to that,” Wildberger said.

In addition to the portal, Telstra has confirmed it has completely removed the use of CAPTCHAs from its web site. Its intent to do so was announced last year, and received support from the ACCAN on December 3.

CAPTCHAs require users to fill out a box with obscurely-animated letters and numbers (and even images) to prove they are human.

While the intent of CAPTCHAs is to minimise spam, ACCAN disability policy advisor, Wayne Hawkins, said at the time, “CAPTCHA tests fundamentally fail to recognise people with disability as human.”

The final piece of this Telstra announcement is that it has also added open captions to 14 BigPond movie titles, and promised to increase that number “over time, until the technical capacity that will enable closed captions to be offered across all platforms is completed.”

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