There are a growing number of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in the Caribbean. A study by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in 2012 reveals that approximately 5.4 percent of the population in this region live with a disability. This group includes persons with impairments, activity limitations, participation restrictions, and those suffering from dementia and other disabilities associated with aging.
Disabled people tend to experience widespread exclusion from the social, economic and political life of the community, whether due to active stigmatization, lack of public sensitization or to the neglect of their needs in the design of policies, programs and facilities. Cognizant of these issues, the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) seeks to build awareness and promote the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) for empowering PWDs in the Caribbean, showing them how they can be more included into their community and how they can live more fully.
The proposed Caribbean Video Assistance Service (CVAS) is a project under the CTU’s, ICT for People with Disabilities (ICT4PWDs) initiative. This project is a collaboration between the CTU and VTC Secure that uses VTCSecure’s technological platform to facilitate communications without expensive equipment via their smart phone, computer or wireless device from virtually anywhere. VTCSecure is a global company that provides secure On-Demand, Video, Voice & Text Call Center Services. Supported by Caribbean Network Operators, this cutting-edge service can significantly enhance the quality of the lives of Caribbean citizens with disabilities.
CVAS provides a video relay service (VRS) for deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired sign language users, and video assistance for the blind or the visually impaired. This service enables the deaf not only to call each other and communicate directly, but also to speak with agents (sign language interpreters), who relay conversations between them and hearing parties. The agents will also assist blind users, enabling them to resolve issues for which they need the assistance of a sighted person.
On Wednesday 25th January 2017, the CTU will be hosting a demonstration of the proposed service to garner support for this endeavour and as part of the process of educating PWDs in the Caribbean of the potential of ICT to improve the quality of their daily lives. The Honourable Maxie Cuffie, Minister of Public Administration and Communications, the Honourable Cherrie-Ann Crichlow-Cockburn, Minister of Social Development and Family Services, and Dr. the Honourable Lovell Francis, Minister of State in the Ministry of Education are expected to attend.
The CTU and VTCSecure share a common vision to use ICT to transform every aspect of Caribbean life and to foster ICT-enabled Caribbean social and economic development. The introduction of this service will reduce the inequality that PWDs currently face and is an important part of promoting inclusivity and providing accessibility for such citizens in keeping with the principles of good governance.