Project Director: Salimah LaForce (GT).
Task leaders: Task 1 Salimah LaForce (GT); Task 2 Ben Lippincott (Shepherd Center); Task 3 Helena Mitchell, Ph.D (GT).
This dissemination project focuses on government, industry and disability stakeholders to raise awareness and champion adoption of accessible solutions for current and future wirelessly connected technologies. Objectives are addressed through three tasks.
Task 1: Inform regulatory rulemakings and policy activities.
The exponential growth of wirelessly connected technologies that enhance usability of the digital and physical environments includes the development of services, devices and applications that transform how we live, learn, work and play. Regulatory agencies realize that the release of new technology outpaces the regulatory process, and are consequently accelerating rulemaking as well as soliciting greater public input into the process. Involvement in the “process” remains a critical task. Our policy and outreach/dissemination efforts since 2011 have reached more than 15,000 persons annually including others who provide assistance to individuals with disabilities, those with temporary disabilities (first responders - firemen with limited visibility), functionally illiterate, the poor, rural populations; those for whom English is a second language, and returning vets with acquired disabilities. Our work suggests approaches to ensure an inclusive wireless technology environment that improves community life and provide “powerful capabilities for human interconnectedness”.
This task will inform the development of wireless technology policy and regulations so it is inclusive of people with disabilities. Outputs will include providing formal written comments and testimony, ex parte comments, participation on accessibility committees and collaborating with disability stakeholders, public/private industry experts on the technological aspects of creating accessible wireless policy and procedures. The team will provide ongoing regulatory and legislative review and translate knowledge from research and development projects into comments, filings, and other policy outputs to inform policymakers as they revise and develop rules and regulations that govern the provision of wireless technologies and services. The goal is to ensure that the evidenced-based, policy recommendations put forth in response to Federal rulemakings can be cited, referenced and retrieved by agencies and other interested parties. Further, via our Technology and Disability Policy Highlights (TDPH) newsletter, website and newsroom, and our social media platforms, disseminate findings to policymakers, Federal agencies, advocacy organizations, designers, wireless technology developers, manufacturers, and others.
Task 2: Increase outreach and training to consumers with disabilities
For consumers with disabilities the constantly-changing landscape of wireless devices and service options complicates determining which products provide the best user experiences. Achieving increased accessibility of wireless technologies and services requires not only the conduct of cutting-edge research and development, but also proactive, comprehensive dissemination and technology transfer. This task will provide consumer oriented training and technical assistance in selecting and using wireless and wearable devices, services and applications. Our online Accessibility Resources survey results suggested that online information was difficult to find, often buried several pages deep within the structure of a company’s website. As such users with disabilities became frustrated and concluded that the wireless industry was not paying sufficient attention to their needs. This task proactively promotes awareness through outreach activities of available accessibility options for consumers with disabilities, including working closely with industry to implement proactive strategies.
Task 3: Advance awareness among industry of accessibility solutions to improve access to wireless products and services.
One of the changes in the industry over the past decade has been the increasing presence of dedicated company departments that handle product related accessibility, and attempt to find ways to address user experience problems. Our established relationships with key manufacturers of traditional wireless devices and service providers will enhance our deliverables to consumers with disabilities. Outreach to manufacturers of wearable and applicable Internet of Things (IoT) devices and potential next generation wireless manufacturers, as well as assistive technology designers and developers will be among the expanded target audience. By working with industry accessibility programs in organizations such as CTIA-The Wireless Association, Consumer Technology Association (CTA, formerly CEA), Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS), G3ict, and Mobile Manufacturer’s Forum (MMF) people with disabilities have benefited on the latest technologies introduced into the marketplace. The Re: Wireless monthly e-newsletter covers the latest in accessibility new from industry and consumers and will include the impact of wearable technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT) on accessibility and inclusive community living. In parallel, our significant commitment to consumer advocacy organizations such as the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), Center for the Visually Impaired in Atlanta (CVI), Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (TDI), and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) allows their important contributions to be included in our outreach vehicles. Consumer awareness of accessibility features of smartphones has been improved in part as a result of national education workshops called Wireless Independence Now (WIN), a partnership with AT&T. Further, partnerships with disability consumer advocacy groups like those above have contributed to ensuring that end-user input is used by industry as they develop new devices and services. New task components will infuse innovation and inclusiveness goals.
State of Technology Conference (SOT)
The State of Technology Conference will bring together consumer, industry, academic, and regulatory stakeholders to explore the implications of the current state and emerging trends in wireless technologies and applications that are most likely to positively impact people with disabilities. We never charge a registration fee to ensure participation by the disability community. The SOT is planned for 2020. We anticipate, based on communications technology and usage trends that 2016-2021 and beyond, there will be major industry transformation which we will examine during the SoT sessions. In addition, three leadership workshops, on topics impacting independence, quality of life and community participation of people with disabilities will inform the direction for the SOT conference.