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Universally Accessible Technology for Persons with Disabilities

by Employee ‎06-04-2010 03:57 PM - edited ‎06-07-2010 12:36 PM

Videophone ServiceOver the past two years Verizon has been part of a collaborative effort to amend the 1996 Telecommunications Act to better reflect the technology needs of persons with disabilities.

 

Working with industry colleagues, leading national disability advocates and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the U.S. House of Representatives put forth a piece of legislation last year called the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009 (H.R. 3101).

 

That bill would ensure that no matter what the platform – wireline, wireless, Internet or video – the experience will be universally accessible. 

 

We are very encouraged that in the last few months we also have seen the introduction of a companion Senate bill that was co-authored by Sens. Pryor (D-AR) and Kerry (D-MA).  A hearing on that bill - the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act (S. 3304) was held on May 26th.  Even though we are recommending some changes to the Senate bill to better reflect the efforts already agreed upon in House bill, we are pleased to see that the Senate is moving forward. 

 

Why?

 

Because the effort behind both of these bills stands to significantly affect the way persons with disabilities access technology in their everyday lives.  As Walter McCormick, who is the head of the USTelecom Association, said at the hearing, “Americans are more reliant than ever on communications devices and networks in their daily lives, but Americans with disabilities can derive particular benefits from these technologies.” 

 

Captioned video on wireless devices, for example, and audio features on Interactive Program Guides (IPGs) for video services are both examples of the kinds of access to technology that would particularly benefit persons with disabilities.

 

Mr. McCormick represented the industry at the hearing and did a wonderful job.  As importantly, other witnesses, including Bobbie Beth Scoggins, the President of the National Association of the Deaf, reinforced the importance of a legislation that meets the needs of consumers without unnecessarily affecting the business operations of the companies that provide these vital services. 

 

Throughout the hearing, we were pleased with assurances we received from Chairman Kerry and others that our suggested changes to the Senate bill were reasonable and attainable.

 

Following up on last week's Senate hearing, the Energy and Commerce Committee in the House has scheduled a legislative hearing for Thursday, June 10th to discuss the merits of H.R. 3101 and Walter McCormick will again plan to testify on behalf of the industry.  We are very proud of the efforts that we have undertaken to date and pledge to continue working with the hope that this recent activity will lead to passage of the legislation later this summer.

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The Responsibility Blog — Learn how Verizon is using communications technology to connect people to the larger resources of the community—education, health care, accessibility and safety—in ways that make lives better. Visit the Verizon Communications Corporate Responsibility Report. We hope you will share your views with us.

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About the Authors

Rose Kirk

V.P. of Global Corporate Citizenship and President of the Verizon Foundation

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Rose leads Verizon's global corporate responsibility initiatives and philanthropic strategy, which focuses on applying Verizon's technology to improve education, healthcare and energy management.

James Gowen

Chief Sustainability Officer/
V.P. of Services Operations

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James oversees Verizon’s supply chain, vehicle fleet, investment recovery, purchasing and materials management and sustainability initiatives.



Jack McArtney

Director of Corporate and Community Responsibility

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Jack promotes digital wellness and online safety. He works with parents, educators, service providers, application developers and industry leaders to foster responsible use of Verizon's mobile and broadband networks.

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