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November – December 2014 Technology and Disability Policy Highlights

In November and December the global disability community was addressed at home and abroad by   commemorating the 2014 International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3, 2014 and a “High-level Meeting” during Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) week, discussing equal access and inclusive development for people with disabilities.  Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the U.S. Department of State, Judith E. Heumann, focused attention on the global disability community in her remarks at the High-level Meeting: Equal Access, Inclusive Development.  She stated, “We have much to learn from each other, and everything to gain in building more inclusive societies, with workforces that benefit from the unique contributions of persons with disabilities.”  On December 2nd, in observance of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, President Barack Obama issued a Presidential Proclamation calling for the celebration of individuals with disabilities around the world and the fundamental right to dignity, freedom, and community available to all people. He also remarked on his continued efforts to encourage the Senate to ratify the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), a point also addressed by the National Council on Disability (NCD).  Reaffirming the need for laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act, NCD took the opportunity to restate their support for ratification of the CRPD, specifying that “incidence of poverty, lack of educational and/or employment opportunities” inhibit many people with disabilities from realizing the same benefits of technology, and consequently a higher standard of living, available to non-disabled persons.

The Federal Commutations Commission (FCC) closed out 2014 with two calls for participation in FCC committees that will focus on issues impacting consumers.  They established a new Disability Advisory Committee (DAC), which will offer recommendations to the FCC concerning disability access issues, assist in educating the public on disability-related matters, and facilitate the participation of consumers with disabilities in FCC proceedings. The FCC also renewed its Consumer Advisory Committee to provide evidence-based guidance to the FCC that addresses (1) consumer protection and education; (2) implementation of Commission rules and consumer participation in the FCC rulemaking process; and (3) the impact of new emerging communications technologies.

Regarding participation in the rulemaking process, the FCC issued a Public Notice [WT Docket Nos. 07-250 and 10-254] seeking updated information to assess whether current hearing aid compatibility (HAC) rules for wireless handsets effectively address the needs of people who are Deaf and hard of hearing.  They also issued a Second Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking [CG Docket No. 05-231] seeking additional comment on proposed rules to require video programmers to file contact information and certifications of captioning compliance.

The FCC rules requiring Commercial Mobile Radio Service (CMRS) providers and other providers of interconnected text messaging applications to support the text-to-911 service were accepted by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) rendering them enforceable. The Second Report and Order, among other things, provided that covered text providers have a six-month implementation period to begin routing all 911 text messages to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) by June 30, 2015 or within six months of a valid PSAP request for text- to-911 service.

In next month’s issue, Wireless RERC news will include a discussion of the top 25 topics addressed in this newsletter, as well as which stories had the most social media shares.

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The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Technologies is sponsored by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under grant number 90RE5007-01-00. The opinions contained in this website are those of the Wireless RERC and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or NIDILRR.