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


Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology

For Immediate Release

Thursday, May 31, 2007


 Mark Richert (AFB) 202-408-8071

Jenifer Simpson (AAPD) 202-467-0046

Karen Peltz Strauss (CSD) 202-363-1263


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- 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 http://www.coataccess.org



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