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Spring 2015 Technology and Disability Policy Highlights

This Spring 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) addressed accessibility in a variety of ways.  In March, service providers and equipment manufacturers were reminded by the FCC that they are required to maintain records of their efforts to provide accessible services and equipment to individuals with disabilities, in accordance with the Communications Act. Recordkeeping enables the FCC to evaluate the impact of their accessibility regulations.  There was also advancement of text-to-911 capabilities with updates to the Text-to-911 Readiness and Certification Registry (Text-to-911 Registry) which lists 911 call centers that are prepared to receive text messages and the date by which emergency text message services should be available to their citizenry.  Text-to-911 deployments allow for people with hearing and speech disabilities to independently contact emergency services from their mobile devices.  In May, accessibility was central to the FCC’s Open Commission meeting where they considered a proposal to extend accessibility rules that apply to emergency information presented on video programming to emergency alerts presented on “second screen” like tablets and smartphones. They also deliberated the permanent extension of the ‘iCanConnect’ Program, which provides up to $10 million annually for the distribution of communications equipment to low-income individuals who are deaf-blind.

In Wireless RERC news, the App Factory released its 2015-2016 Call for Proposals, inviting developers based in the U.S. to submit proposals for financial support to develop assistive and/or accessibility apps for mobile platforms (e.g., Android, Blackberry, iOS, Windows).  In May, the Wireless RERC convened its State of Technology (SoT) Summit, Envisioning Inclusive FUTURES and included 45 subject matter experts in disability advocacy, wireless technology, communications policy, emergency management, hearing access, aging and disability, wearable computing and more.  The Summit was grounded in research carried out in 2014 by the Wireless RERC, and focused on 1) key social, economic, political and technological forces at play in the migration from legacy, analog technologies to mobile, digital technologies, and 2) explored the consequential futures for people with disabilities. The results of the Summit will be presented as online conference proceedings and an online and print publication in a special issue of the FUTURES Journal.

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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.