Technology and Disability Policy Highlights - Fall 2019


This fall, the country celebrated National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) with hosted talks about best practices for employers on how to increase disability inclusion. Numerous organizations hosted events, awareness campaigns, and initiatives in support of NDEAM. Dell convened an "Accessibility Driving Innovation" panel, and Microsoft published videos and blog posts about their vision that accessibility and inclusion are essential for empowering everyone, everywhere.

In the emergency access domain, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved the Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement (READI) Act [S. 2693] and sent it to the full Senate for consideration. The READI Act is a bipartisan bill that seeks to guarantee more access to relevant emergency alerts on mobile devices, televisions, and radios. In parallel, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Intergovernmental Advisory Committee released its report In the Matter of Multilingual Alerts and provided recommendations to strengthen alerting accessibility. They are in support of “the delivery of video alerts in ASL format or operate in conjunction with some other application to provide that content.” The report also noted that Wireless Emergency Alerts could include ASL-translated messages via an embedded URL in the WEA message.

In Wireless RERC news, we submitted a letter to the FCC in support of their initiative to collect data on the geo-targeting capabilities of WEA messages using an embedded link to the survey within the message. We are also pleased to announce that the App Factory project released the Tactile Graphics Helper (TGH) on the App Store, a free iOS app that makes tactile graphics more accessible to people with visual disabilities. Finally, after 15 years with the Wireless RERC, we bid Ben Lippincott farewell as he gears up to work on three NIDILRR funded projects. Though we are sad to see Ben leave, we are excited that he will continue his work in the access and inclusion field. Ben said, “It truly has been an honor to get to work with all of my colleagues at the Wireless RERC.  I have been spoiled, getting to collaborate with and  learn from the best and brightest in the fields of technology, usability, accessibility, and disability.”

This issue also includes news about broadband performance, Project Understood, Accessible Gaming, the Media Access Awards, brain-computer interfaces, wireless body networks, AI for Accessibility, wearables, IoT, and more.