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Visual Impairment

Volume 410: debated on Friday 19 September 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will assess the level of accessibility for visually impaired people in (a) UK Online Centres and (b) Online Centres in Wales. [129946]

[holding answer 16 September 2003]: The Department allocated £199 million of Capital Modernisation Funding (CMF) to fund around 2,800 UK online centres specifically to provide ICT access to the disadvantaged. One main target group centres were set up to reach people with disabilities. Centres are expected to demonstrate that they comply with current requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act and other legal requirements around Equal Opportunities. This element is scrutinised as part of the contract monitoring process.One way that my Department is looking to improve accessibility for the disabled and visually impaired in UK online centres is a package of 811 Assistive Technology kits. These kits have been made available to help some centres meet the immediate, basic, access requirements of a wide range of disabled people. For example, for visually-impaired users the package includes a large keyboard with big keys as well as magnification and screen reading software.

The Department also has contracts in place with key organisations such as AbilityNet, Direct Support and Becta to ensure that there is adequate support and guidance for UK online centres and centre staff on a wide range of issues including people disabilities.

I am afraid I am unable to advise you on Online Centres in Wales as the DIES are only responsible for centres in England. May I suggest you speak to National Assembly for Wales, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff CF99 1 NA, Tel: 029 20 825111.