Federal Communications Commission

Disabilities Access Category

CGB and WTB Release Advanced Services Accessibility PN

October 21st, 2010 by Karen Peltz Strauss

By Karen Peltz Strauss and Elizabeth Lyle

Today the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau and the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau released a Public Notice that seeks comment on some of the key provisions of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, which the President signed into law on October 8, 2010.

The law’s provisions are designed to ensure that individuals with disabilities have access to emerging Internet Protocol-based communication and video programming technologies in the 21st Century.

The PN seeks comment on the requirement in Section 716 of the Act that service providers of advanced communications services and manufacturers of equipment and software used with those services ensure that their equipment and services will be accessible to people with disabilities, unless not achievable.

The Commission is required to promulgate rules implementing this provision within one year of enactment.  Given the tight statutory deadline, the PN seeks to build a record as quickly as possible to aid the Commission in its rulemaking.

The PN also seeks initial comment on ways to implement new recordkeeping obligations imposed by new Section 717 on entities subject to Sections 255, 716, and 718.  In addition, this Notice seeks comment on the obligation imposed by new Section 718 on manufacturers and service providers to provide access to Internet browsers in telephones used with public mobile services by blind or visually-impaired individuals.

Comments are due November 22 and reply comments are due December 7.  One way to submit comments is via the FCC’s electronic comment filing system (ECFS).  If ECFS is not accessible to you, you may send your comments directly to  We urge you to help us build this record.

Pam Gregory and Jamal Mazrui to Lead Accessibility and Innovation Initiative

October 15th, 2010 by Joel Gurin - Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau

By Joel Gurin and Karen Peltz Strauss

We are very pleased to announce that Pam Gregory will be the Director, and Jamal Mazrui will be the Deputy Director, of the Commission’s new Accessibility and Innovation Initiative. Chairman Genachowski launched the initiative at a joint White House/ FCC/Department of Commerce event in July, consistent with a recommendation in the National Broadband Plan.

The mission of the Accessibility and Innovation Initiative is to promote collaborative problem-solving among stakeholders to ensure that people with disabilities reap the full benefits of communications technology. We will use many tools to achieve this objective, including the Chairman’s Award, Accessibility and Innovation challenges, workshops, field events, facilitated dialogues, and online tools such as a problem solving commons and a clearinghouse.

We have or will be launching soon accessibility challenges to developers, industry, and students related to accessible wireless apps, cloud computing and cognitive disabilities, web 2.0 accessibility, and geo-location accessibility, as Chairman Genachowski mentioned in his July 19, 2010 speech. In the near future, we will be providing more details on the Chairman’s Award for Advancements in Accessibility as well as other upcoming events.

We are thrilled that Pam has agreed to lead the Accessibility and Innovation Initiative. Pam has been working on disability issues at the FCC since 1996 and was the first chief of the Disability Rights Office. You can contact Pam at

We are equally thrilled that Jamal Mazrui will be providing leadership to the Accessibility and Innovation Initiative. Jamal has been working as a technology specialist and on disability issues at the Commission since 1999.

We would also like to thank Elizabeth Lyle for her leadership in helping to establish the A&I Initiative. We are happy that she will continue to work with us on these issues, as she takes on new responsibilities as the Special Counsel for Innovation in the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau.

(Cross-posted at Reboot Blog)

Next Steps on Nonvisual Cell Phone Access

September 27th, 2010 by Jamal Mazrui - Deputy Director, Accessibility and Innovation Initiative

Let me encourage anyone interested to submit comments to the Commission regarding accessibility of cell and other phone technologies to people who are blind, deaf-blind, or have low vision, in furtherance of Section 255 of the Communications Act. Such comments are due by the end of Thursday, September 30, 2010. Initial comments have already been filed, and currently, a reply comment period is underway.

The public notice is entitled "Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Seek Comment on Accessible Mobile Phone Options for People who are Blind, Deaf-blind, or Have Low Vision." It may be downloaded as a Microsoft Word document from the following web address:

Comments may be filed using the web form of the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), located at:

A web form on that page allows one to upload a word processor document, e.g., in Microsoft Word format. Comments may also be typed or pasted into a simpler web form called ECFS Express, located at:

At the prompt for the docket, input:

CG Docket No. 10-145

Comments may be of any length and address any relevant issue. They will affect how the Commission handles government responsibilities in this area.

(Cross-posted on the FCC Blog)

If a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words…

July 29th, 2010 by Pam Gregory

As you may have heard, the Federal Communications Commission had a blow-out celebration of the Americans with Disabilities Act 20th Anniversary.  We partnered with the White House and the U.S. Department of Commerce and held a big, I mean B-I-G event on July 19th.  To learn more about those events, please read this blog post.  The FCC also made two videos.  The first video is of the FCC’s own George Krebs touring the Technology Expo.  You can see from the video how crowded the Expo was, and during their tour, they stopped at several booths and asked questions about the various technologies.  The video is open captioned, and captures the fun and positive energy in the room.  When you watch it you will feel like you attended this in person!

The second video was titled “Celebrating Progress: ADA 20th Anniversary” and was shown at the program in the Department of Commerce’s auditorium.  It is twenty minutes of film clips interviewing twenty-two leaders in the disability community on their stories, before the ADA, with the ADA, and what they hope for the future.  It was amazing that so many VIPs were able to give up their time for the interview, and even more generous, opened their hearts telling compelling stories about disability access (or sometimes lack of access).  We all felt uplifted by their stories, and left on a high of what truly is possible when barriers are broken and minds are opened.  The video will be posted on our Internet site in its entirety this fall, with full footage of the leaders. 

When you get a chance, take a look at both videos—they will make you laugh and inspire you!


A Look at the ADA 20th Anniversary Showcase

July 26th, 2010 by George Krebs

Twenty years ago today congress passed the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act. A week ago the FCC celebrated this milestone with an exhibition and program showcasing the advances made in assistive technology. See our video below for a look at the event.


(Video and production credit: Jenny Hou)

Private and Public Stakeholders to Collaborate on Better Informing Consumers About Accessible Apps

July 26th, 2010 by Karen Peltz Strauss

On Friday, I participated in an Apps4Access event on Capitol Hill, hosted by the Committee on Disability Power and Pride, that focused on the wide array of wireless and other applications that can benefit people with disabilities.   Participants included representatives from the disability community, industry, and government, as well as apps developers.

At the event, I asked what industry can do to ensure that consumers are aware of the great number of accessibility apps that are available now and may become available in the future.

In response, CTIA - the Wireless Association volunteered to work with consumers and the FCC to figure out the best way to make this information available to consumers.  Among other things, this may include updating and expanding the wireless association's accessibility website, so that it would be a first stop for consumers searching for information about accessible wireless devices, services, and apps.  CTIA's acceptance of this challenge was conditioned on the agreement of consumers, the FCC, and other stakeholders to collaborate with industry representatives on this project.   We and all of the consumer groups in attendance at the event readily agreed to work together and committed to moving the project forward in a coordinated effort with CTIA.

This is exactly the kind of industry initiative and collaborative problem solving that we think will drive the Accessibility and Innovation Initiative that the Chairman launched last Monday, during our celebration of the 20th anniversary of the ADA.  We applaud the wireless industry's leadership and look forward to working with all stakeholders to make its commitment a reality for consumers.

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.

An ADA Celebration for the Broadband Age

July 23rd, 2010 by Karen Peltz Strauss

Monday’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act was a momentous occasion – and we plan on building from that momentum over the coming weeks and months.

The White House, the FCC and the Department of Commerce teamed together to sponsor an all-day event that started at the White House with accessibility-related technology announcements from all over the Federal government.

In the afternoon, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski launched the Accessibility and Innovation Initiative, which will bring together consumer, industry, government, technology, and academic stakeholders in collaborative efforts to explore accessibility solutions to access barriers. The Chairman also announced the start of the Initiative’s website, the establishment of the Chairman’s Awards for Advancements in Accessibility, and other disability-related challenges and events in which the Commission will be participating.

Commissioner Copps was also actively engaged in the day’s activities, and gave remarks during a morning panel at the White House and the afternoon program at the Department of Commerce. Both Chairman Genachowski and Commissioner Copps toured some of the 40-plus accessibility and technology exhibits arranged by the FCC and on display at the Department of Commerce.

The afternoon included a moving program with musical and dance acts by the Wild Zappers (a deaf dance troupe) and Gallaudet University students, and an FCC original video chronicling personal stories about the impact of technology on people with disabilities. Watch for this video, which will soon be posted on the FCC’s website.

On Monday, the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) also released a Public Notice seeking comment on the accessibility of the Commission’s activities and programs (to fulfill its Section 504 obligations) and CGB and the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau jointly released a Public Notice seeking comment on accessible mobile phone options for people who are blind, deaf-blind, or have low vision.

The day ended with a brainstorming discussion by technology developers and persons with disabilities to identify and prioritize technology barriers to people with disabilities and to explore possible solutions to those barriers.

Today, the FCC participated in Apps4Access, an event being hosted by the Committee on Disability Power and Pride that is focused on giving consumers an opportunity to become better acquainted with wireless and other applications that are accessible to people with disabilities. Stay tuned for more about this event, as well as future blog posts on other exciting disability-related announcements and events involving the FCC.

Ongoing Workshops, Field Events, and Facilitated Dialogues

May 27th, 2010 by Gregory Hlibok

This is the fourth and final (at least for now!) in a series of blog posts seeking public input on the establishment of an Accessibility and Innovation Forum ("A&I Forum" or "Forum").  The first post sought input on clearinghouses and the second one sought input on the Chairman's Award. The third one sought input on a new accessibility blog.

The Accessibility and Innovation Forum will have ongoing workshops and field events.  In this post, we seek your input on what kinds of workshops, field events, and facilitated dialogues would best promote innovative accessibility solutions.  We seek your comment on how often the Commission should sponsor these events.  Should the Commission co-host the workshops and field hearings with other public and private entities, and if so, which ones?

To what extent should the workshops and field events focus on "big picture" technology issues?  For example, should we sponsor a session on the potential of cloud computing and other emerging platforms to address accessibility barriers and promote accessible technologies? 

To what extent should workshops and field events focus on best practices in the public and private sector or in academia? Which best practices should we highlight? Should our field events take place in centers of innovation? Could these events be an opportunity to engage innovators with diverse backgrounds and training in accessibility problem-solving?

To what extent should our workshops and field events focus on key issues discussed in the National Broadband Plan, including digital literacy for people with disabilities, telemedicine, distance learning, employment, civic participation, and public safety? 

To what extent should our workshops be used to support and build upon our rulemaking efforts?  For example, should we have sessions on the captioning of internet programming or on a standard for the use of real time text anytime VoIP is supported?  Should the Forum sponsor a series of facilitated dialogues to work through key issues?

We welcome any suggestions or models that you may recommend. You can respond directly to this post, file a comment in docket CG10-100, or e-mail comments and suggestions to AND  We would appreciate feedback as soon as possible but ask that you file any comments no later than Thursday, June 10. 

You can also sign up to receive periodic e-mails about the Forum's activities and other Commission accessibility issues by sending an e-mail to  We look forward to hearing from you!

Expanding our Blog Coverage to Promote Accessibility

May 24th, 2010 by Pam Gregory

This is the third in a series of blog posts seeking public input on the establishment of an Accessibility and Innovation Forum ("A&I Forum" or "Forum").  The first post sought input on clearinghouses and the second one sought input on the Chairman's Award.

This post seeks input on expanding our blog coverage to promote accessibility. Beginning in July, we plan to expand our blog coverage to highlight best practices, accessibility announcements, and ongoing efforts in industry; standards groups; international fora; government; academia; the disability community; and in other fora and venues.  We tentatively think that we should solicit "guest bloggers" from outside the FCC to blog about these efforts. 

We would like to have posts which announce accessibility breakthroughs, such as the introduction of innovative new products, the finalization of new standards, or the establishment of new practices in the private or public sectors which promote accessibility. We would like to learn about models of accessibility at the international, federal, tribal, state, and local levels.  We also would like to learn about progress in ongoing public-private collaborative partnerships and efforts in the disability community and by students and academics.

What current efforts or upcoming announcements or events do you think our blog should highlight? Should we set up a mechanism which would allow individuals or entities from outside the FCC to sign up to do "guest" blog posts? We seek your input on what guidelines we should have for these posts.  We also seek your comment on other new media tools that we should consider using or expanding to promote accessibility.

We welcome any suggestions or models that you may recommend. You can respond directly to this post, file a comment in docket CG10-100, or e-mail comments and suggestions to AND  We would appreciate feedback as soon as possible but ask that you file any comments no later than Thursday, June 10. 

You can also sign up to receive periodic e-mails about the Forum's activities and other Commission accessibility issues by sending an e-mail to  We look forward to hearing from you!

Capture The Phone Numbers Using Your Camera Phone

If you have a camera and a 2D matrix code reader on your mobile phone, you can capture the FCC Phone numbers right to your phone by following these three easy steps:
Step 1: Take a photograph of one of the codes below using the camera on your mobile phone.
Step 2: Use your phone's Datamatrix or QR Code reader to decode the information on the photograph. Please note, these code readers are device specific and are available to download on the internet.
Step 3: Store the decoded address information to your phone's address book and use it with your Maps or GPS application.

Datamatrix and QR FCC Phones