Projects linking telecommunications technology with software invention and hardware development to produce "anytime, anywhere, anybody" technology for disabled people have won European funding of nearly Pounds 1million.
A part of the development work, led by Jim Kyle and Alastair Munro at Bristol university, will be focusing on ways to enable deaf people to communicate more easily and access Internet resources at will. Dr Kyle, director of the Centre for Deaf Studies, said: "The projects could be as significant and revolutionary as the invention of the telephone."
The Deaf project is part of a wider brief that focuses on groups excluded at present from full communication. The four-year overall development, called Umptidumpti, has been awarded Pounds 694,392 by the European Commission. It will draw in the later stages on a "middleware" technology project also led by Dr Munro, who is based in the Centre for Communications Research. This project, Actrans, had been awarded Pounds 9,622 by the European Union. Both are part of the wider EU Advanced Communications Technology programme.
Dr Kyle will also make use of the research results of another Deaf mobile communications project, TECOL, part of the Department of Trade and Industry's Link programme.
The primary aim is to develop telecoms technologies to provide user-friendly interfaces that enable deaf people and other groups to communicate at any time.
At present deaf people have extremely limited access to telecoms technology, largely text transmission devices such as minicoms and the BT operator service, TypeTalk.
The Deaf project will first test use of mobile phone messaging and develop software before testing extensive use of notebook computers hooked to mobile phones and then creating a system that allows full mobile access to the Internet. The Bristol team will be working with partners in the Netherlands and the Microinformation Centre at Dundee University to develop access technology for a number of disabled groups.
Dr Munro said: "We will be binding lots of different systems together. Mobile communications is about 'anytime, anywhere, anybody' but people often forget about the last part. We aim to provide the best for all using the best technology."