Cyprus Mail

People with disabilities had limited access to information during the Covid pandemic

Visually and hearing-impaired persons had no access to information being broadcasted during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, MPs at the House human rights committee heard on Monday.

“We have a long way to go until we can safely say we offer these rights at a respectable level, that matches a modern European state,” Diko MP Christos Senekis said after the session.

In 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out, there were several TV broadcasts and press conferences that people who were visually and hearing impaired had no access to, deputies heard.

Additionally, people who face these disabilities also have no access to broadcasts on sports, religion or travel – they can only watch the news.

Head of the committee Irene Charalambidou said the matter does not only concern the state broadcaster but all TV stations.

“Accessibility to information as well as equal treatment of people with disabilities should be a priorities for TV stations and for the broadcasting authority.”

Charalambidou said the state broadcaster should set a timeframe and carry out necessary oversight “so as to ensure EU directives have actually been adopted.”

She added it was shocking to hear during the committee that people with disabilities had no access to information that had to do with protecting their life, as well as protective measures which were broadcasted live every day on TV. “They were forced to create their own website so they could keep each other updated.”

According to Charalambidou, EU directives specify information for hearing and visually impaired persons should not only be for news broadcasts but five per cent of entertainment costs.

“I understand there is an additional cost, but this is the law and laws should be implemented.”

She added they had given the broadcasting authority until the end of the year to carry out inspections and ensure the law was being properly adhered to.

Greens MP Stavros Papadouris, who tabled the issue at the committee highlighted issues surrounding cost were no excuse. “Cost is the last thing we should be concerned with. Where matters of human rights are concerned if there is an issue of cost, especially for the state broadcaster, we are with the House finance committee to examine the budget.”

He said providing equal access was not a matter of charity but a duty.

Individuals with these disabilities “are people we want to participate in society and vote” however during the election campaign there was no service to offer either sign language or subtitles.

Papadouris noted the broadcasting authority had suggested to private stations a year ago that if cost was an issue, they could team up with a common fund and proceed to modernise their services, offering access to disabled persons.

“There has yet to be any response from private stations.”


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