Technology and Disability Policy Highlights from the Wireless RERC
Technology and Disability Policy Highlights reports on national and local public policy events and recent wireless technological advances and political activities; and tracks emerging issues of interest to individuals with disabilities. Technology and Disability Policy Highlights is published monthly by the Wireless RERC. The Wireless RERC is a research center that promotes universal access to wireless technologies and explores their innovative applications in addressing the needs of people with disabilities. For more information on the Wireless RERC, please visit our web site at [http://www.wirelessrerc.org].
For further information on items summarized in this report, or if you have items of interest that you would like included in future editions, please contact this edition’s editors, Braeden Benson [email@example.com], Salimah LaForce [firstname.lastname@example.org], or James White, Ph.D., [email@example.com].
This is a publication of the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Technologies supported by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research of the U.S. Department of Education, grant # H133E060061. The opinions contained in this publication are those of the grantee and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Education.
In July the Student Success Act [H.R. 5] was approved by the House of Representatives. The bill, which would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, works to reduce “the federal role in education” through State level academic and teacher assessments in addition to providing State-level grants to promote education for specific populations, such as students with limited English proficiency or students in rural areas. The Assistance in Gaining Experience, Independence, and Navigation Act of 2013 [S.1259] (AGE-IN Act) was introduced by Senator Robert Menéndez. The bill aims to fund research and promote services for transition aged youth with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities.
In regulatory news, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released the 2013-2014 funding allocations for those entities eligible to receive support and reimbursements under the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP) and also adopted new per-minute compensation rates for all telecommunications relay services (TRS), which will take effect as early as August 1, 2013. In addition, the FCC adopted new rules for speech-to-speech TRS to increase the minimum time a communication assistant is to remain with a call and offer users the option to mute their voice to other parties on the call.
Commemorating the 23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), FCC Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn addressed the FCC highlighting the positive impacts made by both the ADA and Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA). Further expanding access for people with disabilities, Clyburn noted that the CVAA has enhanced the availability of closed caption and video description services, while providing accessible communication devices for people who are deaf-blind and allowing for easier access to “accessible communications products and services through the Commission’s new accessibility clearinghouse.”
New Bill to Promote Services for Transition Aged Youth with Autism
June 27, 2013 — In June, U.S. Senator Robert Menéndez (D-New Jersey) introduced the Assistance in Gaining Experience, Independence, and Navigation Act of 2013 [S.1259] (AGE-IN Act), a bill to amend Title III of the Public Health Service Act. Every year, approximately 50,000 youth with autism spectrum disorders “age out” of secondary school and “are no longer eligible for school based support services.” The AGE-IN Act will work to fund research regarding current infrastructure and services provided to transition aged youth with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities. The funded research then will be used to create support services for those youth as they transition out of secondary school. Regarding the bill, Senator Menéndez stated, “for too many people with autism spectrum disorders, the end of high school means the end of the support and skills training they need to succeed in the new world of adulthood. We need a national response to ensure that resources are available to enable these young adults to lead the productive, fulfilling lives they deserve.”
Legislation Integrating IDEA Act into New Bill Passed by House of Representatives
July 19, 2013 — The Student Success Act [H.R. 5], a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, was approved by the House of Representatives. This is the House’s version of Senate legislation, introduced in June, Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013 [S.1094] (SASA). The H.R. 5, introduced by U.S. Representatives John Kline (R-Minnesota) and Todd Rokita (R-Indiana), “reduces the federal role in education,” in allowing States to create academic and assessment standards for students and implement “State- or local-driven teacher evaluation systems,” while providing “Local Academic Flexible Grants” to allow schools to support “initiatives based on local needs.” In addition, the bill ensures separate funding for specific populations, including migrant students, children who are neglected, delinquent or at risk, students with limited English proficiency, students in rural areas and American Indian students, while working to support charter schools, magnet schools and direct student services. John Kline, co-sponsor of the bill and Chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, highlighted that “the Student Success Act will tear down barriers to progress and grant states and districts the freedom and flexibility they need to think bigger, innovate and take whatever steps are necessary to raise the bar in schools.” The bill also integrates requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), student assessment standards and provisions for universal design for technology and innovations used in schools.
National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Allocations
July 1, 2013 — The FCC Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) announced the 2013-2014 funding allocations for entities eligible to receive support and reimbursements under the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP). The NDBEDP is a program mandated by the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) that enables low-income individuals who are deaf-blind to have access to the Internet and advanced communications, including interexchange services and advanced telecommunications and information services. Each year, the FCC allocates $10 million to NDBEDP, $500,000 of which is used for national outreach efforts, and the rest goes to one entity per state chosen to receive support for the local distribution of equipment.
FCC Extends TRS and IP Relay Waivers
July 1, 2013 —The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released an Order in the Matter of Telecommunications Relay Services and Speech-to-Speech Services for Individuals with Hearing and Speech Disabilities [CG Docket No. 03-123] and E911 Requirements for IP-Enabled Service Providers [WC Docket No. 05-196]. The Order extends waivers one year to July 1, 2014 or until the FCC amends the rules underlying these waivers, whichever occurs first. The FCC has extended the waivers to providers of VRS and IP Relay, due to the belief that “each of the waived standards are either technically infeasible for providers to achieve or not applicable to the form of TRS (i.e. IP Relay or VRS) for which the standards are waived. Waivers have been extended for the following rules:
- Types of calls
- Pay-per-call (900) calls
- One-line Voice Carry Over (VCO), VCO-to-TTY, and VCO-to-VCO
- One-line Hearing Carry Over (HCO), HCO-to-TTY, and HCO-to-HCO
- Call release
The FCC similarly extends the waiver applying to VRS and IP Relay “service providers serving newly registered customers who use their former default service provider’s customer premises equipment (CPE).” These waivers have been extended in recognition that a transition period is needed to ensure full implementation of the interoperability and portability standards under the VRS Reform Order.
New Deadlines for Closed Captioning Rules
July 1, 2013 —The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Public Notice noting the deadlines concerning the June 14, 2013 Order on Reconsideration and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) in the Matter of Closed Captioning of Internet Protocol-Delivered Video Programming: Implementation of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 [MB Docket No. 11-154]. The Order on Reconsideration addresses petitions from stakeholders concerning the rules for captioning of IP-delivered video programming for certain apparatus that will go into effect on August 1, 2013. For the FNPRM, where the FCC asked for comments on requirements for the synchronization of closed captions and video display in addition to the closed caption requirements for DVD and Blu-Ray players that do not render or pass through closed captions, initial comments are due September 2, 2013 and reply comments are due September 30, 2013.
FCC Sets TRS Compensation Rates
July 1, 2013 —The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released an Order in the Matter of Telecommunications Relay Services and Speech-to-Speech Services for Individuals with Hearing and Speech Disabilities [CG Docket No. 03-123] and Structure and Practices of the Video Relay Service Program [CG Docket No. 10-51]. The Order adopts per-minute compensation rates for all telecommunication relay services (TRS), excluding video relay services (VRS). Specifically for the 2013-2014 fund year, the Order sets the compensation rates as follows:
- Interstate traditional TRS – $2.1647
- Interstate Speech-to-Speech (STS) relay service – $3.2957
- Interstate captioned telephone service (CTS) and IP captioned telephone service (IP CTS) – $1.7877
- IP relay – $1.0147
The rates were set by the current TRS fund administrator through application of the MARS analysis, which averages each state’s intrastate rates and minutes of use. The new rates will be implemented between August 1, 2013 and September 1, 2013.
New FCC Speaker Series Highlighting Accessibility
July 2, 2013 — The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has begun a new Accessibility and Innovation Speaker Series to “highlight and encourage innovation in accessible communications technologies” benefiting people with disabilities. The Series begins on July 16, 2013, when Clayton Lewis from the University of Colorado will present on “The Future of Inclusive Design Online.” Professor Lewis’s presentation will highlight developments in technology and how they are working to ensure accessibility for people with functional needs through providing opportunities for superior access. The presentation will begin at 10 AM in the FCC Commission Meeting Room and will be followed by an accessible technology demonstration.
Compliance with Hearing Aid Compatibility Rules
July 3, 2013 —The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Enforcement Bureau released a Public Notice reminding all wireless handset manufacturers that they have until July 15, 2013 to file reports regarding compliance with hearing aid compatibility rules. The rules require manufacturers to “offer a minimum number of hearing-aid compatible handsets,” while providing information to consumers on their availability. Failure to comply with reporting and hearing aid compatibility rules may result in fines.
TIA Petitions for New Hearing Aid Compatibility Standards
July 19, 2013 —The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Public Notice announcing that the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) has filed a “petition for rulemaking requesting the Commission to revise its Part 68 hearing aid compatibility (HAC) volume control gain requirements for terminal equipment.” The TIA specifically requests that the rules be revised to reference ANSI/TIA-4965, the latest TIA standards to address volume control requirements for HAC, in order to improve access to emergency services and provide “regulatory certainty for manufacturers.” Comments on the Notice must reference [CG Docket No. 13-46] and are due August 19, 2013. Reply comments are due September 3, 2013.
New Rules for Speech-to-Speech Calling Services
July 19, 2013 —The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) in the Matter of Speech-to-Speech and Internet Protocol (IP) Speech-to-Speech Telecommunications Relay Services [CG Docket No. 08-15] and Telecommunications Relay Services and Speech-to-Speech Services for Individuals with Hearing and Speech Disabilities [CG Docket No. 03-123]. The Order adopts rules to increase the minimum amount of time that a Communications Assistant must stay with a call from 15 to 20 minutes, allow speech-to-speech (STS) users the option to mute their voice to other parties on the call and ensure that users who dial 711 (the Telecommunications Relay Service dialing code) are able to easily access a STS communications assistant. The FNPRM is seeking comments on additional aspects of the STS relay service. Specifically, the FCC notes that the service is under-utilized, despite outreach efforts and seeks comment on replacing the “current per-minute outreach subsidy to STS providers” with a “national outreach STS coordinator.” In addition, the FCC seeks comment on whether rules should be adopted to ensure “consumer eligibility, registration and verification” and if STS providers should be required to allow users to create a caller profile outlining their “preferences for call handling.” Comments are due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register and reply comments are due 45 days after publication in the Federal Register.
FCC Acting Chairwoman Clyburn Commemorates the ADA
July 19, 2013 — The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn addressed the FCC in commemoration of the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In her address, Clyburn highlighted that the ADA has had a profound impact for over 50 million Americans and “has opened the doors of opportunity to education, employment, and entertainment, as well as communication, community and civic action and access.” Clyburn continues by addressing the impact of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), “the ‘sister’ to the ADA.” Further expanding access for people with disabilities, Clyburn noted that the CVAA has enhanced the availability of closed caption and video description services, while providing accessible communication devices for people who are deaf-blind and allowing for easier access to “accessible communications products and services through the Commission’s new accessibility clearinghouse.” Clyburn ended her address by acknowledging the many people who have advocated for communications accessibility.
Louisiana Tech to Change Policies Following ADA Settlement
July 24, 2013 —Louisiana Tech University and the Department of Justice have reached a settlement regarding allegations that, in violation of the ADA, the University used an “online learning product” that was inaccessible to a blind student in addition to not providing the student with accessible course materials in a subsequent course. The settlement will require the University to reimburse the student for $23,543 in damages, while ensuring that all instructors and administrators are trained on the requirements of the ADA. In addition, the University will be required to develop new policies including policies to ensure all technology and instructional materials are accessible to people with vision disabilities, and all web pages and online courses are compliant with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0 AA). Of the settlement, Eve Hill, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, note, “emerging technologies, including internet-based learning platforms, are changing the way we learn, and we need to ensure that people with disabilities are not excluded or left behind.”
Publications and Reports
GAO Critical of 2012 Telework Report
July 9, 2013 — In compliance with the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 [PL 111–292], the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) 2012 Telework Report before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In the presentation, the GAO highlighted that OPM had not been able to attain sufficient information on many reporting requirements because insufficient time had been allowed for implementation of all aspects of the Telework Act. The lack of data concerning levels of participation and frequency of teleworkers was recognized as a key limitation in evaluating the impact of the Act, possibly resulting in underreporting of telework activity and inability to determine the cost savings of telework. The GAO recommended that OPM provide assistance to agencies in setting telework goals, work to identify the cost savings of telework and work with the CHCO Council to create a reliable data gathering method of telework participation. According to the Telework Act, OPM is also required to provide policy and policy guidance to federal agencies regarding implementation of telework as an accommodation for people with disabilities. However, the GAO review did not address the issue. OPM’s report discusses telework as a reasonable accommodation but does not provide any quantitative data on federal employees with disabilities that telework.
Access Board Provides Best Practices for Accessible Prescription Labels
July 10, 2013 — Pursuant to Section 904 of the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act, the U.S. Access Board Working Group on Accessible Prescription Drug Container Labels released best practices for accessible prescription drug labels for people who are blind or have low vision. According to the report, accessible labels are necessary to ensure that people who are blind or have low vision are not at risk of taking, or providing to someone in their care, the wrong medications, expired medications or the wrong dosage. The Access Board notes that prescription drug container labels can be made accessible through the use of braille, large print and dedicated electronic equipment, and provides format-specific best practices such as ensuring all labels provided in an audio format are presented in a clear voice with minimal background noise, printing braille labels on a transparent material to “preserve the legibility of the print container” and printing large-print labels in 18-point, non-condensed, sans-serif font. Despite the delivery method, the Access Board also notes that accessible labels should be provided free of charge to users and within the same time frame as prescriptions with non-accessible labels and any duplicate labels should “preserve the integrity of the print prescription drug container label.” The best practices presented by the Access Board are not mandatory, however the National Council on Disability will “conduct an informational and educational campaign” to inform the public of the practices, while the Government Accountability Office will review adoption of the practices in pharmacies nationwide beginning 18 months after the release of the practices.
EAAC Identifies NG911 Accessibility Gaps
July 15, 2013 —The Emergency Access Advisory Committee (EAAC) of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a report outlining “gaps in NENA i3 NG9-1-1 specifications related to EAAC Accessibility reports.” The report reviews the NENA Functional and Interface Standards for Next Generations 9-1-1 (NENA i3), a document widely used in the development of NG9-1-1, and notes that certain gaps in the NENA i3 may prevent accessibility within NG9-1-1. Specifically, the EAAC notes that future versions of NENA i3 need to address many items, including the need for standards to address emergency calls using a relay service, the use of media communication line services, transferring and call-back procedures relating to multi-media calls, joint use of text and voice in emergency calls and silent call procedures. Although the EAAC notes that issues with accessibility remain in the current version of the NENA i3, they also note that “the NENA i3 08-003 specification represents a tremendous accomplishment in establishing the framework for accessible NG9-1-1 communications, and the list of gaps in no way overshadows or diminishes the work done to date.”
Other Items of Interest
Fully Accessible GPS App
July 1, 2013 — The Seeing Eye and the Sendero Group released The Seeing Eye GPS app, described as the first fully accessible GPS product for the iPhone. The app provides turn-by-turn directions and includes features such as announcing the orientation of cross streets at all intersections, “heads-up” announcements for upcoming turns, automatic recalculation if the individual wanders off the route and the LookAround Wand, which audibly lists nearby establishments depending on the direction the phone is pointed. The app is available for $69 for a one-year subscription and $129 for a three-year subscription.
Nominations for American Federation for the Blind Access Awards
July 1, 2013 — The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) announced that they are accepting nominations for the 2014 Access Awards, due by August 30, 2013. The awards are given annually to honor individuals, corporations and organizations that use “exceptional and innovative efforts” to improve the lives of people who are blind or have low vision through “enhancing access to information, the environment, technology, education or employment.” The awards will be presented at the AFB Leadership Conference on February 28, 2014 in New York.
Mixed Progress Toward Text-to-911
July 3, 2013 — Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile released reports outlining their progress to deployment of text-to-911. These reports were issued following an agreement made between the wireless providers, the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and APCO International to offer text-to-911 services to subscribers. The reports note that while the four providers all deliver bounce-back messages to subscribers who attempt to send text messages to 911 in areas where the services is not yet provided, each provider is currently in a different state of text-to-911 deployment. Sprint recently completed a six-month trial of various vendors and will soon make a selection, while AT&T is set to begin a trial of text-to-911 later this year. T-Mobile has selected a vendor and is working to develop an “interim” text-to-911 solution. Finally, Verizon is working with Telecommunication Systems Inc. (TCS) to deploy text-to-911. Through Verizon, the service is currently available in eleven jurisdictions in North Carolina, Vermont, Virginia, Texas, New York and Maryland and is scheduled to deploy in additional locations later this year.
New Personal Vision Assistant Released
July 17, 2013 — HumanWare has announced the release of Prodigi, a personal vision assistant designed to be a “more affordable and intuitive visual aid than the traditional CCTV-based electronic magnifier.” Available in a desk version or a portable, tablet version, Prodigi allows users to magnify a letter or A4-sized page and displays the image with “perfect text quality”. Prodigi also offers various reading modes including enhanced color contrast, single column text, scrolling text and text-to-speech. Pierre Hamel, Vice President of Research and Development at HumanWare noted, “Until recently, the technology behind Prodigi wasn’t available, but we saw it coming and have now successfully integrated the latest camera and image processing technologies into a portable platform, specifically designed for people living with a visual impairment.”
Funding Available for Research Center on Community Living Policy
July 18, 2013 — The National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) has announced a final priority and award application for a Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Community Living Policy. The prospective RRTC will “research, statistical analyses and modeling, knowledge translation, development of informational products, and dissemination to contribute to increased access to, and improved quality of, long-term services and supports (LTSS) for individuals with disabilities of all ages.” The estimated available award is $875,000. The Application for the awards is available beginning July 18, 2013, and the final deadline for applications is September 3, 2013.
CSUN 2014 Call for Papers
July 24, 2013 — The 2014 International Technology & Persons with Disabilities Conference (CSUN) announced a call for papers. CSUN is currently accepting paper proposals for the Scientific/Research Track to be considered for inclusion in the Journal of Technology and Persons with Disabilities. Suggested paper topics include:
- Augmentative and Alternative Communications (AAC)
- Aging and Disability
- Emerging Assistive Technologies
- K-12 Education
- Legal Issues
- Postsecondary Education
- Web Accessibility
Paper proposals are due September 30, 2013, and final papers are due May 1, 2014. CSUN 2014 will convene March 17-22, 2014 in San Diego, California.
Sprint Announces Wireless CapTel Services
July 24, 2013 — In partnership with Raketu, Sprint released a new app to provide Wireless CapTel for iOS-powered devices. With the app, users with hearing loss can place a call and voice-recognition software will caption the conversation for the caller. The app works for 3G or 4G cell phones as well as Wi-Fi only devices and will deliver captions in both English and Spanish. In addition to the new app, Sprint also offers Wireless CapTel for Android devices with OS 2.2 or higher.
Wireless RERC Updates
Take the 2013 Hearing Aid Compatibility Survey!
In 2005, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began implementing new rules to make cell phones “compatible” with hearing aids and cochlear implants. Cell phones that are compatible with hearing aids” produce minimal electromagnetic interference, which causes static when the phone is near the ear with the hearing aid.
The Wireless Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (Wireless RERC) is interested in how the FCC’s regulations impact the usability of cell phones for people who use hearing aids and cochlear implants. We invite people who use hearing aids or cochlear implants to participate in the survey regarding their use of cell phones.
Start the 2013 Hearing Aid Compatibility Survey! As incentive for taking our 2013 HAC survey, you will have a chance to win one of four $50 Amazon gift cards!
If you wish to take the survey over the phone, please email John Morris or call him at 404-367-1348.
And in an effort to reach native Spanish speakers, we also have a Spanish language version of the survey which can be found below. You can help us out tremendously if you forward the text and link below to any Spanish language speakers who use hearing aids!
Wireless RERC Presents at M-Enabling Summit
June 27, 2013 – Wireless RERC Researcher Jim Mueller gave a keynote address entitled, “Universal Design in the Workplace” at the Executive Order 55 Kickoff Summit hosted by the Virginia Workforce Council. The Summit assembled 150 employers and vocational rehabilitation personnel to explore strategies and promote employment for Virginians with disabilities. More information on the Virginia Workforce Council can be found here.
16th Annual Accessing Higher Ground Conference in November
The 16th Annual Accessing Higher Ground Conference, presented by the Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), will be held in Westminster, Colorado November 4 – 8, 2013. The conference will address accessibility, including “accessible media, universal design and assistive technology” for institutions of higher education and businesses. Online registration for the conference can be accessed here.