Communications is an area that has many concerns for Deaf people, but since June 2010, Deaf Australia has not been funded to do advocacy work in this area.

Deaf Australia is a member of ACCAN (Australian Communications Consumer Action Network) and works with them on various issues.

We contribute to ACCAN’s work as best we can with our limited resources.



In January 2014, Deaf Australia endorsed a ‘community position statement’ developed by ACCAN about CAPTCHA; a common spam avoidance method when using forms on a website. The statement recommends that the use of these things be discontinued because they prevent many people with disabilities (especially blind, deaf and deaf/blind people) from accessing websites that use them.

You can download the statement from the ACCAN website by clicking here.

SMS emergency access, VRS, captioned telephony and upgrades to the NRS

In 2006 Deaf Australia began advocating for mobile access to emergency services, in particular SMS access, and for a Video Relay Service (VRS). From 2008 to 2011 we conducted a focussed campaign encouraging people to send letters to the Minister about the need for a VRS. We also advocated for captioned telephony, and for upgrades to the National Relay Service (NRS). An upgraded NRS including SMS relay, VRS and webcaptel began from 1 July 2013.

Download the Letter to Minister Conroy (PDF 90KB) Download the follow-up letter to the Minister (PDF 1.1MB) Download the consumer statement (PDF 192KB) Download the letter regarding the NRS tender (PDF 89KB)

Representing Deaf people

Over the years Deaf Australia has represented Deaf people on a number of communications committees and forums. Much of this has now been taken over by ACCAN. We currently have a representative on the following:

  • Telstra Disability Forum
  • Telstra Disability Equipment Program Consumers Advisory Group
  • ACCAN Standing Advisory Committee on Disability Issues
  • NRS Advisory Council

Deaf Telecommunications Access Networking (DTAN) project

This project built on the work done by Deaf Australia’s Telecommunications Access Sub-committee (TASC) from 1986 to 2001. The project operated with funding from the Department of Broadband Communications and Digital Economy (DBCDE) from October 2001 to June 2010.

Activities included:

A)   Videophones / Video Relay Service

DTAN researched the availability of videophones that are suitable for Deaf people to use and the technologies they operate on, for example: regular telephone land-line or V2oIP (Video over Internet Protocol). It also advocated for the addition of a Video Relay Service to the NRS, which was achieved in 2013.

B)   Emergency Services via mobile phones

Our work on this began in 2006 as part of the DTAN project and was achieved in 2013.

C)   Pricing plans for broadband internet and mobile phones

We looked at costing comparisons between:

  1. Standard broadband plans vs suitable broadband plans for video telephony
  2. Standard voice plans for mobiles vs video plans for 3G video phones

We wanted to find out if the cost of telecommunications is greater for people who are Deaf, who happen to need the use of technologies that give us closer equivalence to a voice service (either mobiles or broadband plans).

D)   Position Papers

Several position papers, developed from responses to discussion papers were released. They were:

Emergency services and Deaf people 2008

This position paper explains Deaf Australia’s views in relation to Emergency Services access for Deaf people in Australia, with particular focus on the use of 000 and 106 emergency service numbers.

Download the position paper (PDF 112KB)

What is Deaf equivalent to Voice Telephony? 2007

This position paper explains Deaf Australia’s views in relation to accessibility in the Australian telecommunications environment, with particular focus on what the Deaf community perceives to be the Deaf person’s equivalent to voice based telephony.

Download the position paper (PDF 141KB)
E)   Discussion papers

A number of discussion papers were distributed to find out about the experiences and views of Deaf Australians (and in some cases other stakeholders such as industry and service providers).

Discussion papers usually had a related questionnaire. Some discussion papers were developed into position papers based on responses to the questionnaires. Many issues continue to be relevant after the time for comment has passed.

Broadband Discussion Paper (PDF 289KB) Disability Equipment Program Discussion Paper (PDF 39KB) Emergency Services Telecommunications Issues Discussion Paper (PDF 206KB) Emerging Technology Discussion Paper (PDF 319KB) Mobile Phones and Deaf People Discussion Paper (PDF 133KB) National Relay Service and Deaf People Discussion Paper (PDF 54KB) Rural, regional or remote access telecommunications issues for Deaf People Discussion Paper (PDF 219KB) Telecommunications Service Access Issues Discussion Paper (PDF 219KB) Service Access at Telecommunications Retail Service Centres Issues Discussion Paper (PDF 176KB) Telecommunications and Deaf People: Getting the Industry Perspective Discussion Paper (PDF 176KB) Telecommunications Affordability Issues Discussion Paper (PDF 176KB) Telecommunications in the Workplace Discussion Paper (PDF 102KB) What is the Deaf Equivalent of Voice Telephony? Discussion Paper (PDF 353KB) Coalition Position Paper on the National Relay Service (PDF 930KB)