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Blended Broadband Services Could ‘Transform Lives’.

Access to simultaneous, multi-channel services over the internet is set to transform the way disabled people use online services, according to a new report launched at the e-Access’06 conference.

“Blended transactions” will in future be the “most remarkable manifestation of the use of broadband for disabled people,” said the report’s author Kevin Carey at the annual conference on access to technologies by people with a disability.

So-called “blended” or “hybrid” applications have the potential to deliver help to the user simultaneously through more than one channel, minimizing the barriers that disabilities often present said Carey, who is director of digital inclusion charity HumanITy and vice-chair of the RNIB.

For example, if confronted with an online form a user could contact a human advisor by activating an on-screen link to call for assistance. Using internet telephony based services – or voice over IP (VoIP) – he or she could talk to the advisor while filling out an online form, for example, and both parties would have access to the form. Carey suggested this hybrid model could also combat the social exclusion experienced by older and disabled people.

“An always-on broadband community network” could be used for “virtual communities of support” he said, as well as reduce feelings of isolation. To fund this blended approach to broadband services, the public sector should collaborate with charities and the private sector to work out a distribution model whereby the public sector would pay a basic subscription to a supplier, suggested Carey.

“Individuals could then top up with special services such as mobile wireless. This would save a huge cost in over-engineered hardware, installation, maintenance and upgrading,” he said. NOTE: For more on this, see Kevin Carey’s recently published report ‘Broadband and Disability’published by HumanITy and sponsored by BT in association with Ability magazine and E-Access Bulletin.


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