The Important Intersection between Emergency Communications Advances & Improved Access for Americans with Disabilities
As information and communications technology (ICT) rapidly develops and advances, access to advanced communications products and services is increasingly important for those with disabilities. Similarly, ICT innovations have led to the development of improved emergency communications and next generation 911 (NG911) services. New offerings like text-to-911 will give individuals the ability to send a text message to reach 911 emergency call takers.
The Federal Communications Commission recently adopted new rules requiring all wireless carriers and other text messaging providers to provide consumers with text-to-911 capability by the end of 2014. These advances in wireless emergency communications present great life-saving tools to all Americans but they are especially consequential for those living with hearing or speech disabilities.
TIA has been a strong supporter of government efforts to improve access to communications technology for people with disabilities through the inclusion of more accessibility features in ICT products (see previous blog entry on the ICT industry's commitment to increased accessibility). In July, TIA filed with the Commission to highlight the significant steps TIA members are taking to implement the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) and inform the agency's Second Biennial Report on CVAA implementation.
Moreover, TIA has supported FCC efforts to comprehensively improve emergency communications and has noted that allowing emergency call centers to receive diverse forms of communication (like texts) will greatly improve public safety. (See TIA's recent filing on NG911).
Last Friday, the Commission held a forum to highlight the important intersection of advancements in emergency communications and greater accessibility for people with disabilities; promote the latest advances in accessible wireless emergency communications, including text-to-911; and facilitate discussion between stakeholders and consumers. The forum included an FCC presentation on the status of its text-to-911 rules, followed by a report from wireless carriers and public safety officials on their progress in rules implementation. TIA applauds the Commission for hosting this event which was an important mechanism for informing the disability community about new NG911 rules, available technologies, and how to use these services.
As the FCC and the public safety communications community work to implement the new NG911 technology capabilities, increasing public awareness and understanding will be important. TIA and its members are ready to work with stakeholders to encourage and support local emergency call centers in their efforts to upgrade their facilities to be able to receive all forms of NG911 communication.
We look forward to engaging with consumers, regulators, and other stakeholders to ensure that the new emergency communications rules are successfully implemented, thereby enhancing inclusion and access to life-saving services for a broader group of Americans.