In November, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took several actions to improve communications access for people with disabilities. Regarding emergency communications, in efforts to implement the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA), they announced that beginning November 30, 2015, video programming distributors must provide emergency information television text crawls to people with vision loss by sounding an aural tone and aurally presenting the information at least twice. Also, the FCC released a Noticed of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) In the Matter if Improving Wireless Emergency Alerts [WEA] and Community Initiated Alerting [PS Docket No. 15-91], proposing to increase the length of WEA messages from 90 characters to 360 and including URLs in the messages. Specifically, the FCC would like to know if and how these, and other proposed changes would improve the accessibility of WEA messages to people with disabilities. A complementary action taken in November, was the FCC’s vote adopting the new Hearing Aid Compatibility (HAC) rules requiring all wireless handsets to be HAC compliant. This is meant to give people who use hearing assistance technologies the same range of device choices observed by consumers without hearing loss. In prior rulemakings the Wireless RERC has asserted that WEA accessibility depends, in part, on the accessibility of the device. So the extension of HAC requirements to all wireless handsets should increase access on both fronts, to personal communications and emergency notifications.
In Wireless RERC news, we submitted ex parte comments to the FCC in open proceedings concerning the Emergency Alerts System [Docket Nos. 15-94 and 04-296] and Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) [Docket Nos. 15-91 and 07-287]. The document presented the background and results of research activities which were conducted to examine the effectiveness of EAS and WEA to provide alerts to people with disabilities.
Finally, two important reports were released in November concerning current and emerging technologies. The Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT) released a paper, eRecruiting & Accessibility: Is HR Technology Hurting Your Bottom Line?, which outlines the current state of electronic recruiting of people with disabilities and what it means for employers. Also, the National Council on Disability (NCD) released a report titled, Self-Driving Cars: Mapping Access to a Technology Revolution. The report focused on how self-driving cars have the potential to increase independence of people with disabilities.