Technology and Disability Policy Highlights: June 2017

Date of Publication: 
2017 July
In June the Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee held two hearings concerning the advancement of emerging technologies: the Disrupter Series: Update on IOT Opportunities and Challenges, and the hearing on Self-Driving Vehicle Legislation. Both hearings addressed the multitude of issues that accompany designing, developing, testing and deploying these technologies. The positive impact that IoT and self-driving vehicles could have on the lives of people with disabilities was a topic of discussion at both hearings as well, but more prevalent in the self-driving vehicles testimonials from both House Representatives and witnesses. Regarding air travel, the Air Carrier Access Amendments Act of 2017 [S.1318] was introduced by Senator Tammy Baldwin [D-WI]. The purpose of the legislation is “To protect the rights of passengers with disabilities in air transportation, and for other purposes.” S.1318 includes a provision directing the U.S. Access Board to create accessibility standards for stowage of assistive technologies, in-flight entertainment, video displays, announcements, and other air travel experiences such as boarding and deplaning.
In regulatory news, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) celebrated the winners and honorable mentions of the Sixth Annual Awards for Advancement in Accessibility (Chairman’s AAA) at the 2017 M-Enabling Summit. There were four winning technologies that addressed either the accessibility of video programming, social media, or real-time, in-person group meetings. FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai stated, “Building accessible products and services by design helps everyone. It allows consumers with disabilities to benefit immediately from technological innovation. It can create buzz for your products.  It can be far cheaper and more effective than retrofitting after a product is built. In short, “baking in” accessibility features can unlock tremendous value throughout the supply chain.” Chairman Pai also released a statement outlining FCC initiatives during Consumer Protection Month. The FCC has prioritized addressing issues identified by consumers through the FCC’s consumer complaint process. The number one complaint from consumers is Robocalls. Another key initiative is to improve services for people with visual impairments by providing more accessible television programs and an enhanced viewing experience. The FCC’s Disability Advisory Committee meeting convened in Washington, D.C., June 15-16, 2017 where Commissioner Mignon Clyburn reiterated her support for an increase in the number of hours of video-described programming content, improved closed captioning, and the application of Hearing Aid Compatibility standards to advanced communications. 
This issue also includes news about virtual worlds, accessibility accommodations, captioning live videos, augmented reality, a smart glove, and more.


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