Assistive technologies in communications: report on needs, new technologies and ongoing research

17 March 2009

In order to ensure that its resources are targeted effectively, Ofcom commissioned an independent study from i2 media research to identify the areas where Ofcom could have the greatest potential impact in supporting the future development and application of new assistive technologies in the communications sector.  The study focussed on three key areas:

  1. The current provision of assistive technologies in the field of communications, with a view to the identification of unmet needs
  2. The identification of recent technological developments that may enable new services (eg speech recognition, touch screens, smart materials)
  3. The identification of existing assistive technology developments, including those funded by the European 7th Framework Programme and relevant charities such as RNID & RNIB.

The main output of this study was a prioritised list of areas where Ofcom involvement could provide the stimulus for industry to develop new assistive products or services.

The study makes two key recommendations:

  1. That Ofcom commissions a small-scale technical development project aimed at making voice over IP (VOIP) telephony services more accessible for hearing impaired users. This project would bring together an existing speech to text software package and an open source voice over internet protocol application to provide a speech to text demonstration platform. The use of VoIP would enable a functional system to be created by a small-scale development and could potentially produce a platform that would be of benefit to hearing-impaired users. The performance of the platform would be evaluated against draft ETSI requirements for captioned telephony services, and against user needs, through trials with deaf and hearing impaired users.
  2. That Ofcom explores how the development of personalised Web 3.0 entertainment services, including WebTV and radio services, might be used in the future to enable the provision of personalised user interfaces adapted to different users needs.

This report present the findings of work conducted on Ofcom's behalf. The opinions and conclusions stated within the reports are those of the organisation who conducted the research and may not reflect the view of Ofcom or necessarily imply any future work in related areas.

Full report

Assistive technologies in communications: unmet needs, new technologies and ongoing research and development programmes (PDF, 225.1 KB)