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Connecting America’s Stories: Empowering America’s Disabled Citizens

July 26th, 2010 by Page Schindler Buchanan

July 26th marks the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  In two decades our nation has come a long way in appreciating the contributions and needs of those people who, in the past, were all too often left behind.

Another major innovation that has changed the lives of disabled Americans in the past 20 years has been broadband internet access.  Never before have people been so empowered to communicate, work, play, learn and enjoy entertainment – if they have broadband access.  Unfortunately in many areas it just isn’t available, or affordable.
 
Sara in White Swan, Washington
 
With Broadband made available here in the rural areas of the Yakama Indian Reservation it would help us out alot. My Sister and I are disabled and do not drive much so our entertainment is at home. Faster internet would help with education needs in our home, access to information on the web for health, research, entertainment at a low cost (web surfing), able to keep in contact with family in other states. 
 
The phone co keeps telling us soon for broadband, we have seen them upgrade the lines right in front of our home, but still waiting for some type of upgrades to come in to the substation to allow people further out access to broadband. It would be nice to have a faster service at a decent rate.
 
The Broadband Plan makes several recommendations to help get access to Tribal Lands and other rural areas, and has already set out a path to make those plans a reality.  In addition to access, it is important that people are educated on the potential that broadband hold for personal and professional purposes.
 
Brian in Spring, Texas
 
After a long and successful career as a systems architect I became disabled at the age of 42. My only hope to return to work and support my family is to be able to work remotely via broadband connection. 
 
The issue is two fold - first, none of the companies I could potentially work for are willing to hire remote resource / telecommute workers despite the fact that every aspect of my trade can be performed this way without modifications or added expense. Given the fact that I used to travel 100 percent for work the switch to telecommute resources would save thousands of dollars per year in travel expenses, energy, time, etc. The current business model is a huge waste of time and money. 
 
Secondly, though we have high speed internet the actual speeds and quality of connection are border line. We live in an area where a single provider is our only path to broadband. This allows them to provide poor service at higher than normal rates vs. areas where they have at least one competitor. This is a much larger issue than wiring connections from point A to point B. Our country could save billions if not trillions of dollars per year and unimaginable energy resources via a conversion to telecommute program.
 
Brian raises two important points that the plan addresses.  First, encouraging telework is an essential part of developing economic opportunity through broadband access. Congress recognizes the importance of teleworking to the new economy and is currently working on legislation that will promote it.  
 
Second, having competition for customers’ business, as well as clear and accurate consumer information about services, is an important component of ensuring access.  Since releasing the plan, the FCC has launched an app that allows you to test your actual broadband speed so you can compare it to what your provider promised. The app has recently served its 1 millionth test proving that the need for quality and accurate broadband service.
 
Click here to see a video with more information. 
 
 
Jeffrey N. in Wilton, Connecticut
 
I am visually impaired. I rely on broadband access to access printed content and video for viewing via adaptive devices. I also utilize broadband for remote video monitoring of my home when traveling. This in addition to the normal research, email/web, VPN to work, and social networking comprises the majority of my broadband usage. 
 
As we celebrate 20 years of empowerment with the American’s with Disabilities Act, we can also see a bright future 20 years from now, with broadband innovations we can’t even imagine improving the lives of all Americans, with all of their different abilities.

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