TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Disability Groups Call for Telecom Legislation

Disability Groups Call for Telecom Legislation

Nigel Allen (
Tue, 22 Nov 2005 17:46:11 -0500

The following press release was issued by the National Association of
the Deaf (NAD) at I thought that the press release
might be of interest to Telecom Digest's readers.

Disability Groups Call for Telecom Legislation

SILVER SPRING, Md., Nov. 22 -- The National Association of the Deaf
(NAD), joined by other disability organizations listed at the end of
this press release, called upon Congress to enact legislation
mandating disability access to Internet-based products and services by
the end of this Congress. The nation needs broadband, everywhere, now,
and at affordable rates -- this is true for no one more than people
with disabilities.

Following up on testimony presented at last week's hearing before the
Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, given by NAD
governmental affairs consultant Frank Bowe and delivered on behalf of
16 national, state and local organizations of, by, and for people with
disabilities, Kelby Brick, NAD Director of Law and Advocacy, said:

"People with disabilities use communications technologies every day
that were not even in existence at the time our nation's
communications laws were last amended. The 1996 Telecommunications Act
did not contemplate instant messaging, email, video relay,
peer-to-peer video or such handheld devices as the Firefly and the

Although the 1996 Act contained disability provisions for access to
telecommunications products and services, it was mainly limited to
those used with the public switched telephone network, not the
Internet. As a result, people with disabilities will only gain equal
access to today's communications infrastructure and services if
Congress acts to extend these protections to Internet-enabled products
and services."

Individuals are urged to contact their representatives in Congress by
taking action at:

Dr. Bowe testified on behalf of the Alliance for Public Technology,
the American Association of People with Disabilities, the American
Council of the Blind, the American Foundation for the Blind, the
Association of Late-Deafened Adults, the California Coalition of
Agencies Serving the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Inc., Communication
Services for the Deaf, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy
Network, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Service Center Inc., Inclusive
Technologies, the National Association of the Deaf, the Northern
Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons, Self
Help for Hard of Hearing People, TDI/Telecommunications for the Deaf
Inc., WGBH National Center for Accessible Media, and the World
Institute on Disability.

In his November 9, 2005 testimony, and in response to questions posed
by Subcommittee Chair Fred Upton (Republican - MI), Dr. Bowe said that
the disability community wants legislation sooner rather than later:
"The Nation urgently needs a coherent broadband policy. Critical to
these improvements are the disability consumer protections contained
in the staff draft."

Dr. Bowe further noted that communications manufacturers and service
providers have had ten years to become familiar with the accessibility
needs of Americans with disabilities. The House staff discussion draft
would extend the same accessibility requirements to new
Internet-enabled products and services. Because today's communications
products and services make extensive use of software, and are rapidly
upgraded, he said, the disability community believes that making these
accessible to and useable by people with disabilities will be neither
costly nor technologically demanding if done during the design stage.

Dr. Bowe concluded his testimony by stating: "Critically important
disability access provisions will come about only if Congress enacts
an updated framework for telecommunications."

Today, our organizations reiterate his words and call for immediate
Congressional action to guarantee access to all of the exciting and
innovative Internet-enabled products and services that are entering
the marketplace, as well as many sure to follow in the coming years.

The disability organizations below have joined in the request to the
U.S. Congress:

Alliance for Public Technology
American Association of People with Disabilities
American Foundation for the Blind
Association of Late-Deafened Adults
California Coalition of Agencies Serving the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Communication Services for the Deaf
National Association of the Deaf
National Council on Independent Living
Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons
Self Help for Hard of Hearing People
WGBH National Center for Accessible Media
World Institute on Disability

About the NAD

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD), founded in 1880,
safeguards the civil rights of deaf and hard of hearing Americans. As
a national federation of state association, organizational and
corporate affiliates, the advocacy work of the NAD encompasses a broad
spectrum of areas including, but not limited to, accessibility,
education, employment, healthcare, mental health, rehabilitation,
technology, telecommunications, and transportation. The NAD website has a wealth of advocacy information and resources.

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