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Communicating

Ofcom, the UK's communications regulator, has a duty to encourage manufacturers of everything from set-top boxes to mobile phones to be as accessible as possible.

One of the current big issues is electronic programme guides (EPGs) for digital television. At present they are hard to read for the blind and partially sighted people.

Broadcasters are also being encouraged to improve subtitling, audio-described and signed services for programming satellite and cable broadcasters now have targets over 10 years to subtitle their programmes.

But communication and the media is about more than just television. Many theatres use "surtitling" for Operas - subtitles above the stage. Others have signed or audio-described performances. One charity specialises in providing "stagetext" screens in 39 venues.

A big area of concern remains the internet. Websites are covered by the Disability Discrimination Act because they constitute a service and may be guilty of discrimination if can't be adjusted for the partially-sighted people.

A formal investigation by the Disability Rights Commission in spring 2004 found 80% of 1,000 websites were unusable. The sites included popular services such as online banking, flight booking and theatre tickets.

Great Britain's Ian Sharpe (back) with his guide Paul Hunter during the Men's 4km individual pursuit
Great Britain's Ian Sharpe (back) with guide Paul Hunter during the Men's 4km Individual Pursuit
DIGITAL TV: OFCOM TARGETS
70 channels affected
Only tiny audience channels exempt
80% of programmes subtitled by 2014
10% must have audio description
5% must have signing
Ofcom to review targets within two years

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