PR Newswire
Friday, June 01, 2007

Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT) Applauds FCC's
New Disability Accessibility Requirements

By Press Release

WASHINGTON, June 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Today, the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) adopted a Report and Order, "Disability
Access Requirements Extended To VoIP Services" at its monthly open meeting.
The FCC Order levels the playing field so that interconnected Voice Over
Internet Protocol (VoIP) service providers must meet similar requirements
for providing access to people with disabilities that wireline and wireless
providers currently meet.
"We applaud this significant step forward in making sure persons
disabilities will not be left behind or left out of the next generation of
phone services using Internet technologies," says Jenifer Simpson, of the
American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), a cofounder and
spokesperson for the Coalition.
The Order does three things for persons with disabilities. It extends
the accessibility and usability requirements of Section 255 of the
Communications Act to VoIP service providers. It requires VoIP providers to
contribute into the Interstate Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS)
Fund. It also requires VoIP service providers to meet the same TRS
obligations that traditional phone companies must meet, such as connecting
relay service users via 711, the nation's free access number to reach a
relay service center.
"Companies using new phone technologies should make their products and
services accessible and usable for people with vision loss. Why should I
have to ask someone to place a phone call for me just because some company
forgot to design phone services with my needs in mind?" asks Mark Richert
of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), another co-founder of the
disability coalition supporting the FCC action. "And, if we can't get our
telephone bills in Braille, how do they expect us to pay them?"
"New contributors into the relay services fund are important because the
number of traditional phone customers is continuing to decline,"
explains Karen Peltz Strauss of Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD,
Inc.), also a founder of the new disability coalition. "Relay services are
absolutely essential for people with hearing and speech disabilities."
"The 1996 Telecommunications Act required phone companies and
manufacturers to make services and products disability accessibility and
usable," adds Jenifer Simpson. "Here we are, eleven years later and some
companies still forget to design at the front end for the needs of people
with all kinds of disabilities, leaving them behind as the rest of the
population gets to use all kinds of new and exciting communication
technologies. Everyone's getting pretty fed up with not being able to use
these innovative gadgets and services. This FCC action is a good step
forward, but it's time for the whole communications industry to take a giant
step forward. We want to see accessibility in all products and
services in the marketplace."
COAT is a new coalition of disability organizations, launched in March
2007, to advocate for legislative and regulatory safeguards that will
ensure full access by people with disabilities to evolving high speed
broadband, wireless and other Internet protocol (IP) technologies. The
Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology, or COAT, consists of
over 67 national, regional, and community-based organizations dedicated to
making sure that as our nation migrates from legacy public switched-based
telecommunications to more versatile and innovative IP-based and other
communication technologies, people with disabilities will benefit like
everyone else. More information about the disability coalition is available
at website