US communications regulator FCC seeks comment on tech accessibility

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Friday, 20 June 2014 10:15am

The US communications regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has put out a call for industry and public comment on the accessibility of communications technologies.

The comment will help the FCC produce a report on the extent to which communication technologies are accessible, ongoing accessibility barriers of these technologies, as well as recordkeeping and enforcement of accessibility requirements.

The FCC is required to produce a report every two years on the level of industry compliance with the accessibility requirements of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act 2010 (CVAA).

According to the FCC comment is particularly sought on the state of accessibility of services and equipment used for ‘non-mobile’ services, including, but not limited to analog and digital telephone handsets and cordless phones used with landline and interconnected VoIP (voice over internet protocol) services, and mobile or wireless services, including basic phones and smart phones.

Specific questions the FCC are seeking responses to include:

  • Are manufacturers and service providers including people with disabilities in their market research, product design, testing, pilot demonstrations, and product trials?
  • To what extent are covered entities (companies covered by the CVAA) working cooperatively with disability-related organisations in their efforts to incorporate accessibility, usability, and compatibility of equipment and services throughout their processes for product design, development, and fabrication?
  • Are covered entities making reasonable efforts to validate unproven access solutions through testing with people with disabilities or with organizations that have expertise with people with disabilities?
  • For guidance on determining the state of accessibility, we direct commenters to the definition of “accessible” that governs Section 255 obligations, contained in Parts 6 and 7 of the Commission’s rules.
  • To what extent do the input and output controls of these telecommunications and interconnected VoIP services and devices used with these services offer redundant capabilities, so that people without hearing, vision, or speech, or with limited manual dexterity, cognitive skills, or other abilities can operate them?
  • To the extent that accessible services and devices are available, how easy is it to locate these services and devices in mainstream retail establishments?
  • To what extent are services and devices offered with a range of low-end and high-end features, functions, and prices available to the general public also accessible to individuals with disabilities?
  • Where services and devices are not accessible, to what extent are service providers and manufacturers making these compatible with peripheral devices and specialised customer premises equipment commonly used by people with disabilities to achieve access?

The request for comment and opportunity to comment on accessibility issues are available on the same page on the FCC’s website.

Earlier this month the FCC also announced the winners of the 2014 FCC Chairman Awards for Advancement in Accessibility.

The regulator also made the decision to dismiss petitions from 16 television programs requesting exemptions from closed captioning requirements.

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