Growing Access to “Life-Changing” Technology

“I feel more equivalent, more independent. It changed my life” – Lori Siedman, Birkenstock boston, Massachusetts

“I just don’t have the words to explain how exciting this is for me and how very significant this is to me. inch – Rosetta Brown, Conyers, Georgia

“I’ve been given a chance to be a productive member of society. ” – Ramona Rice, Riverdale, Utah

When you hear people speaking in such powerful terms, you take notice. When they are talking about a program below your jurisdiction that is due to expire, a person take action.

Established by the FCC within July 2012, the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program, what we call iCanConnect, empowers low-income individuals who are deaf-blind to access 21st Century communications services.

The program provides up to $10 million each year for communications technologies for individuals who have got both significant vision loss plus significant hearing loss. In addition , it offers training for these individuals to ensure they can completely utilize the equipment they receive.

Programs are in place in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Vasto, and the Virgin Islands, and they are aquiring a powerful impact. Thousands of individuals like Lori Siedman, Rosetta Brown, plus Ramona Rice have been served, thousands of pieces of equipment have been distributed, and many hrs of training have been delivered.

Ryan Odland, coordinator for the New York Deaf-Blind Machines Distribution Program with the Helen Keller National Center (HKNC), has discussed the power of iCanConnect to get over the isolation that people living with view and hearing impairments can experience. “The technology offered through this system allows deaf-blind individuals to join in since contributive members with the rest of our society, ” said Odland. “Humans depend on one another for support to operate, deaf-blind individuals are no different. ”
Although iCanConnect is transforming lives across America, it’s currently is set to expire on June 30, 2015. The National Deaf-Blind Machines Distribution Program was authorized by Twenty-First Century Communications and Video clip Accessibility Act (CVAA). The FCC established it as a pilot program that we launched in 2012. That needs to alter.

Today, I’m circulating a proposal to extend the pilot program previous June 30 and simultaneously move ahead with rules to establish the permanent program. To start along this street, the Commission had already released a public notice asking for feedback on how to improve the program. The suggested rules reflect ideas for enhancements gathered from the public notice plus lessons learned from the pilot program.

When people talk about iCanConnect as a life-saver, they are speaking metaphorically. For people with disabilities, new technology can also be a life-saver literally.

In an emergency, every second counts. If a tornado warning appears on your television within an on-screen crawl, that can give you the period you need to seek shelter, if you can examine it. The Commission adopted guidelines in 2013 to ensure that individuals who are blind or visually impaired have access to visible emergency information when it is shown throughout non-newscast television programming, such as within an on-screen crawl, through an aural demonstration on a secondary audio stream that consumers can switch in order to hear the information.

More and more Americans today view video programming provided by cable or even satellite operators – whether it be local news, a network sitcom, or even public television events – on their laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

That’s precisely why the Commission will consider a proposal at our May meeting that makes certain that these “second screens” permit emergency information displayed during television programming to be accessible to blind and visually impaired persons. At the same time, we will consider requiring manufacturers to incorporate a simple and easy to use mechanism regarding cable and satellite subscribers to change between the main and secondary sound streams in order to hear that critical information in real-time.

It is my wish and expectation that these new guidelines will enable individuals who are blind or even visually impaired to more quickly respond to time-sensitive emergency situations.

Communications technology has the power to dramatically improve the lives of all People in america, but the possibilities are even more pronounced for people with disabilities. I look forward to dealing with my colleagues to expand access to this life-changing technology.

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