In February, the Research Excellence and Advancements for Dyslexia Act (READ Act) became Public Law No: 114-124, establishing a Research in Disabilities Education program to work towards expanding interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) for students with dyslexia or other disabilities. More now than ever, access to broadband services is integral to academic, and eventually, career achievements for people with and without disabilities alike. In an effort to ensure access to broadband services for low income Americans, 81 members of Congress signed a letter to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler on the subject of modernizing the current Lifeline program, and advocating for the inclusion of broadband internet services in Lifeline.
In the regulatory arena, the FCC adopted amendments to the closed captioning rules to increase access to televised video programming for Americans that are Deaf or hard of hearing. The FCC is using these amendments to clarify which parties are responsible for the different aspects of delivery and quality of closed captioning on television. Additional actions under purview of CVAA implementation included the FCC Order granting an indefinite waiver extension of rules regarding the accessibility of e-readers. As before, this waiver is for a narrow class of e-readers with the following features: 1) the device has no LCD screen; 2) the device has no Camera; 3) the device is not offered with built-in email or other similar ACS applications; and 4) the device is marketed as a reading device and does not advertise the capability to access advanced communications services (ACS).
In Wireless RERC news, we are pleased to announce funding of five new assistive technology apps for development and release in 2016 as part of our App Factory development project. These new apps will provide solutions to a range of challenges that users with physical, sensory and cognitive impairments face. Regarding people who are deaf or hard of hearing the Wireless RERC filed comments in the FCC’s Hearing Aid Compatibility (HAC) Rulemaking. The comments were, in large part, informed by analyses of data collected via the Wireless RERC’s hearing aid compatibility (HAC) survey research which was designed to gather data from people who use hearing aids and cochlear implants on how well their hearing technology works with their wireless handsets. Finally, building upon research initiated via the Wireless RERC emergency communications research and development (R&D) projects, the final technical report of the DHS S&T funded project was released. Optimizing Ability of Message Receipt by People with Disabilities: Prototype Findings Report/Vibration Scale Final Report, summarizes the findings of R&D efforts to understand and identify ways to ensure that people with disabilities had timely and effective access to WEA messages.