Caribbean Telecommunications Union Promotes Using ICT to Empower Disabled

The technology enables the deaf not only to call each other and communicate directly, but also to speak with trained sign language interpreters who relay conversations between them and hearing parties.


PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago, Monday January 30, 2017 – The head of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) is calling for strong collaboration among stakeholders to use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to empower people with disabilities (PWDs).

CTU Secretary General Bernadette Lewis says this requires the involvement of governments, people with disabilities and the organizations that serve them, ICT service providers, network operators, regulators; as well as the support of corporate citizens.

She was speaking at the demonstration of the features of the Caribbean Video Assistance Service (CVAS), which enables the deaf not only to call each other and communicate directly, but also to speak with agents (trained sign language interpreters) who relay conversations between them and hearing parties.

The proposed CVAS is a collaboration between the CTU and VTCSecure that uses a technological platform to facilitate communication, without expensive equipment, via an individual’s smart phone, computer or wireless device from virtually anywhere.  VTCSecure is a global company that provides secure On-Demand, Video, Voice & Text Call Center Services.

Using a Personal Universal Communicator (PUC) app, the demonstrations featured following five scenarios:

Deaf to Deaf – a Deaf person uses his smartphone equipped with internet access and the PUC app to sign with another deaf person.

Deaf to hearing/hearing to Deaf via an interpreter – The Deaf uses his smart phone with internet access and the PUC app to communicate with an agent, who connects them to a hearing third party using a normal landline phone. Conversely, the hearing person can call the agent and speak to the Deaf.

Video assistance service for the blind – a blind person uses his smart phone to contact an agent for assistance in identifying, for example, his medication and finding his way in a building, in particular in an emergency situation.

Hearing to Deaf without interpreter – Both hearing and Deaf parties use smart phones with internet access and the PUC app. The hearing party speaks and the voice is converted to text in real time. The Deaf person responds in text. A hard of hearing person responds with voice.

CTU consultant Trevor Prevatt said the service will eventually be extended to other Caribbean territories.

But he said funding had to be secured to ensure the sustainability of the service.

“We need to enlist secure financial support for the Service from a number of stakeholders, in particular corporate citizens,” he said.

The demonstration gathered a cross-section of representatives, including PWDs and PWD organizations, social development and ICT sectors, as well as members of the diplomatic corps.

Left to right: CTU telecommunications strategist Selby Wilson; Secretary General of the CTU Bernadette Lewis; Bryan Rodrigues and Kerryn Gunness, deaf and partially blind facilitators of the CTU’s ICT for People with Disabilities Workshops; CTU consultant Trevor Prevatt; and Kimone Elvin, deaf participant.


A study by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in 2012 reveals that approximately 5.4 percent of the population in the region live with a disability. This group includes persons with impairments, activity limitations, participation restrictions, and those suffering from dementia and other disabilities associated with aging.

  Click here to receive news via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)