March 2018 – In a recent Government Technology article, Mr. Richard Ray was recognized for his work in the city of Los Angeles as the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) Technology Access Coordinator, as well as his leadership as co-chair of the Federal Communications Commission‘s Disability Advisory Committee since 2015. Mr. Ray, who is himself deaf, began working twenty-six years ago on helping connect people with disabilities in L.A. with city services. In the article, he lists spear-heading the transition to texting 911 emergency services over using legacy teletypewriter (TTY) systems as one of his proudest achievements. Access to emergency services remains a barrier for many people in the United States who often rely on outdated or unreliable technology to communicate with and receive information from emergency services. Speaking to this issue, Mr. Ray said, “The national standard for answering 911 calls is 10 seconds. This is not equal access; that is why 911 texting is so important. TTY is 60 years old; Deaf people have been using mobile devices for quite a while.” He hopes in the future in addition to texting, video would be added as a 911 access option.
A current challenge that Mr. Ray has been focusing on is the lack of consistency in people receiving notifications, particularly in crisis situations, saying, “Frequently people with disabilities are kicked off the message system or the “system simply breaks down. My focus this year is to heighten awareness nationally so that everyone receives the same information.” We wish Mr. Ray all the best in his continued efforts to increase accessibility for all citizens.
Source: Elizabeth Zima, Government Technology