We are pleased to announce that we have received funding from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) to continue our work in advancing access to wireless technologies. The Wireless RERC will conduct research and development on wireless devices and technologies for a transformative future where individuals with disabilities achieve improved quality of life and enhanced community inclusion. The award is the fourth consecutive five-year grant given to the team. In this cycle, partnerships are expanded to include other research universities including Georgia State University’s Center for Leadership in Disability (CLD), and the University of Texas Arlington (UTA), School of Social Work. “Our public policy initiatives to facilitate inclusion of people with disabilities in the wireless space will continue to be a critical component of the Wireless RERC. Over the years, we have submitted more than 60 filings for proposed rulemakings before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other regulatory agencies about issues of telecommunications access and emergency communications. Our filings have been referenced or cited more than 170 times in ongoing rulemakings, including final rules and orders regarding advanced technologies and accessible mobile alerts,” said Dr. Helena Mitchell.
Hitting the ground running, in October two filings were submitted to two separate federal regulatory agencies. First, comments were filed in response to the FCC’s Public Notice, Request for Comment on the Commission’s Policies and Practices to Ensure Compliance with Sections 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 [CG Docket No. 10-162]. Wireless RERC comments asserted that baseline accessibility issues consistently impact access to customer service and print and electronic materials furnished by industry and policymakers alike. To improve access to programs and services, we recommended addressing fundamental issues of awareness and accessible formats. Another filing was submitted in response to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) request for public comments to inform the development of a National Broadband Research Agenda [Docket No. 160831803–6803–01]. Our comments suggested several avenues of research to ensure that development and deployment of broadband connectivity and applications are accessible to and usable by people with disabilities.
Many interesting and informative actions were taken in October by the FCC, the U.S. Department of Justice, and industry regarding parity of access to communications products and services and what said access affords. The Wireless RERC is keen to continue our work with stakeholders to inform national policy and technology development.