Technology and Disability Policy Highlights - August 2019

In August, Colorado passed Modifications to the Uniform Election Code (HB19-1278) and Voting Access for People with Disabilities (SB19-202) Acts to expand access to voting for all eligible Coloradans. SB19-202 gives Coloradans with disabilities the ability to vote independently and privately using nonvisual or low vision access technologies. At the end of the Congressional summer session, House Representative Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), and Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) introduced Greater Access and Independence through Nonvisual Access Technology (GAIN) Act of 2019 [H.R. 3929]. The National Federation of the Blind lauded Congress’ efforts to ensure that users with vision disabilities have full access to all features of a device.

In the regulatory space, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Public Notice [CG Docket No. 05-231] inviting public comment on a petition for declaratory ruling and rulemaking filed by a coalition of consumer and academic organizations concerning live captioning quality metrics and the use of automated speech recognition techniques. The FCC also released a Report and Order [WT Docket No. 17-228] requiring wireless service providers to post publicly accessible information on their websites listing the hearing aid compatible (HAC) mobile phones that they offer. The Commission took these steps to ensure easily discoverable online materials about the HAC compliant mobile devices offered by service providers.

In Wireless RERC news, we are excited to announce that we teamed up with the Georgia Radio Reading Service (GaRRS) to produce an all-audio set-up guide for users of the Amazon Echo Dot. The new guide is meant to be a tutorial for users who are blind or have low vision who want to set up their devices without assistance. The audio guide details the process in a step-by-step format: First, what to expect when unboxing the Echo Dot, next, what the functions of the buttons on the top of the Dot do, and finally, how to synch the Dot to the Alexa app.  

This issue also includes news about the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, teaching universal design, Facebook, Project Euphonia, an AI-powered chatbot, IoT, testing accommodations, and more.

Editorial correction: Last month’s issue highlighted a book chapter co-authored by Dr. DeeDee Bennett, who is an associate professor at the University at Albany, not an assistant professor. 

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