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Author Archive

Technological Barriers and Solutions for People with Disabilities

September 23rd, 2009 by Elizabeth Lyle - Special Counsel for Innovation, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

Elizabeth Lyle BBWe have tentatively planned for a panel at our October 20 workshop on providing access to people with disabilities to discuss technological barriers, solutions, and costs as they relate to broadband networks, services, equipment, software, content, and tech support.

Please give us your feedback on workshop planning issues (e.g., how to structure this panel, suggested questions and speakers, and helpful background reading material) and policy issues.

  • As a general matter, what technical issues do we need to consider as we formulate policy recommendations "to stay ahead of technology?"
  • How would a "functionally inclusive infrastructure" which would build accessibility features directly into the broadband infrastructure be built?  How much would it cost? Should the National Broadband Plan include specific policy recommendations relating to the "functionally inclusive infrastructure?"
  • What are the technical issues that we need to consider as we formulate policies related to "improve access to 9-1-1 (including location capabilities) for those communicating with non-traditional text, video, and instant messaging communications services?
  • On what technical issues relating to equipment, software, content and tech support affecting the accessibility of broadband should we focus?
  • What are the interoperability challenges that manufacturers face and what steps need to be taken to address these challenges?  What policies would promote "openness" and ensure that assistive technology (AT) vendors are not locked out of closed systems?
  • What are the technical challenges related to ensuring that AT equipment is compatible with broadband equipment and software - and that sufficient tech support is available to help consumers navigate the interaction between these devices?
  • How much accessibility should be incorporated in mass market equipment through universal design principles and how much accessibility should be gained through assistive technologies?
  • What are the technical issues related to making broadband media accessible and what are some of the innovations that will be necessary to make user-generated content accessible?
  • What other information that you think would help us better understand the technological barriers and solutions, including information responsive to the more specific questions in our recent Public Notice?.

Please file your comments using our Electronic Filing Comment System, using either ECFS Express or our standard submission page if you need to attach a file.

Accessibility and Affordability Barriers to Broadband Faced by People with Disabilities

September 22nd, 2009 by Elizabeth Lyle - Special Counsel for Innovation, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

Elizabeth Lyle BBWe have tentatively planned for a panel at our October 20 workshop to discuss barriers to broadband accessibility and affordability for (i) people with hearing disabilities; (ii) people who are blind and have vision disabilities; (iii) people with speech disabilities; (iv) people who are deaf-blind; (v) people with mobility disabilities; and (vi) people with intellectual disabilities and social communication disabilities, including autism.

Please give us your feedback on workshop planning issues (e.g., how to structure this panel, suggested questions and speakers, and helpful background reading material) and policy issues.  For each disability, we are interested in learning

  • the number of people who use broadband;
  • the biggest accessibility barriers;
  • whether affordability is a major concern;
  • whether subsidizing the cost of specialized equipment would increase broadband use, and, if so, by how much;
  • whether subsidizing the cost of broadband service by low-income consumers in the community would increase broadband use, and, if so, by how much;
  • whether the marketplace is more or less responsive to accessibility concerns than it was in the past;
  • the percentage of mass market consumer broadband equipment and devices that have the needed accessibility features;
  • what broadband applications are potentially the most beneficial;
  • whether more outreach will help spur broadband use, and, if so, whether there are effective mechanisms or networks by which to do so; and
  • any other information that you think would help us better understand the accessibility and affordability barriers faced by people with disabilities, including information responsive to the more specific questions in the PN.

Please file your comments using our Electronic Filing Comment System, using either ECFS Express or our standard submission page if you need to attach a file.

Public Notice Seeks Comment on Ensuring Accessible and Affordable Broadband for People with Disabilities

September 18th, 2009 by Elizabeth Lyle - Special Counsel for Innovation, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

Elizabeth Lyle BBToday we released a Public Notice, or PN, asking for recommendations to ensure that broadband technologies are accessible and affordable to people with disabilities.  The large number of questions in the PN makes it clear that we have a lot to do if we are going to formulate meaningful policy.  There are numerous, complex issues to discuss and distill in the coming months, and it is critical that we work collaboratively with all stakeholders to get this right.  Here is how you can help:

  • Help us plan the structure and substance of our upcoming workshop on Oct. 20. We invite suggestions on panel topics, exhibits, speakers and additional questions.  We also welcome your ideas for background material that may be helpful for us and all those participating in the workshop.  Our goal is to use the workshop time as effectively as possible to help us formulate policy recommendations.  You can give us your input by filing comments in the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) by using either ECFS Express or our standard submission page if you need to attach a file.  Please note in your comments that they are responding to NBP Public Notice #4 or in response to a blog that we will be posting for each panel in Blogband (see more details below).  The sooner you file your suggestions, the better.
  • Respond to questions in the PN by October 6. Before we can make policy recommendations, we have to understand better the accessibility and affordability barriers faced by people with disabilities; the technological barriers and solutions; the potential of broadband to advance certain national purposes (related, for example, to health care, education, public safety, job creation/worker training, and civic participation/community development) for people with disabilities; resources existing at the federal, state, local, and tribal level that we can leverage to make broadband accessible and affordable to people with disabilities; and the effectiveness of regulatory and non-regulatory mechanisms in promoting accessibility and affordability for people with disabilities.  To the extent that commenters are able to help us gather information in advance of the workshop, we can both build on this information and narrow the focus of the workshop accordingly.  We would also appreciate your help in identifying commenters who may be expert at certain issues (e.g., on barriers faced by those who have intellectual disabilities) who have not participated in this proceeding (or perhaps any other FCC proceeding) to date.  File comments as described above, and once again, please mark your submission as responsive to NBP Public Notice #4.
  • Participate in the new disability access policy blog.  As mentioned above, we are establishing a "disabilities access" category on Blogband where we will post five different blog posts to track the tentative panels that we propose for our workshop.  That is, we will have posts (and ongoing threads) on (1) Accessibility and Affordability Barriers Faced by People with Disabilities; (2) Technological Barriers and Solutions; (3) Furthering National Purposes and People with Disabilities; (4) Federal, State, and Local Resources to Make Broadband Accessible and Affordable to People with Disabilities; and (5) Policy Solutions and Recommendations.  The posts will cover the same kinds of questions that are set forth in the PN.  We know that many of the issues that we raise would benefit from having an ongoing, iterative process in which we could collaborate on these issues before and after the workshop.  We also will post new blog posts when we want to focus on a particular topic in more detail.  And, as noted above, we also invite comments relating to workshop planning in response to these posts.  Finally, if you want to initiate an idea not covered in the blog posts, we encourage you to do so by going to broadband.ideascale.com and clicking on accessibility for people with disabilities.

Broadband Opportunities for People With Disabilities

August 24th, 2009 by Elizabeth Lyle - Special Counsel for Innovation, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

Elizabeth Lyle BBI just joined the broadband team last week to help out on the disability access policy issues. When Cheryl King, the workshop coordinator, told me that we were going to conduct a 90-minute town hall meeting with well over 100 participants which would cover 16 sets of questions and would allow for participation via the Internet and a phone bridge, I thought she was ...um ... gutsy.  But she and her team managed to do all of that - as well as integrate into the program powerful remarks from Special Observers Kareem Dale, the President's Special Assistant for Disability Policy, and Marcie Roth, Senior Advisor, Disabilities Issues at FEMA.  Chairman Genachowski and Commissioner Copps were also on hand.  Team leader Blair Levin gave opening remarks at the workshop and stayed for the entire time, engaging the participants with numerous follow up questions.

Disabilities-Workshop-Hilbrook

The format allowed us to hear from a large number of thoughtful, knowledgeable, and passionate people who care deeply that we get this right.  We heard comments from the disability community, industry, academia, and government about today's broadband marketplace, the potential that broadband holds for people with disabilities, and strategies for achieving full access.  We covered a lot of topics in a short time, some of which include:  universal design and the importance of considering accessibility early in the design and development phase;  the challenges of interoperability; what companies are currently doing to make their products and support services accessible; consumer needs; technological advances that may drive the increased use of broadband by people with disabilities; sources of funding that could promote greater usage; how we should define broadband; the role of industry consortium in promoting accessibility; the role of government and regulation; and the need to include a principle of inclusion in the National Broadband Plan.

We are still in the fact-gathering, early stages of the process, and the record from the Notice of Inquiry and the transcript from the proceedings today provide a good starting point.  But we have a lot of work to do.  As Blair said at the workshop, our task is to integrate disability access issues into all aspects of the National Broadband Plan.

We need your help to do that.  We need more details and facts and data about the most effective and efficient mechanisms for ensuring broadband access for people with disabilities; about how to achieve affordability and maximum utilization of broadband; about the status of deployment for people with disabilities; and about how to consider people with disabilities as we prepare a plan for use of the broadband infrastructure and services to further health care, education, job creation, and the numerous other national purposes.

Disabilities-Workshop-Dale-1

Recognizing that we still need to add to the record, Cheryl announced that we will hold an additional workshop on October 20.  But we also need specific, detailed submissions from you that will allow us to draft a plan that will accomplish the objectives that Congress has set out for us.  If you have some thoughts about a specific process that best would elicit the record we need, please let us know.

--Below are more photos from the Workshop--

Disabilities-Workshop-21 Disabilities-Workshop-Dale-2 Disabilities-Workshop-11 Disabilities-Workshop-Blair-Levin 

 

 



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