To allow Americans with disabilities to experience the benefits of broadband, hardware, software, services and digital content must be accessible and assistive technologies must be affordable.
Accessibility for the Disabled
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced that the items below are tentatively on the agenda for the January Open Commission Meeting scheduled for Thursday, January 30, 2020:
The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from Domino’s Pizza after a federal appellate court ruled that a blind customer can sue the chain under the Americans with Disabilities Act after he couldn’t fully use its website through screen-reading software. Domino’s had asked the Supreme Court to rule that the ADA didn’t apply to websites and apps, arguing the 1990 law predated the modern internet and that there were no firm rules businesses could comply with to make their online assets accessible.
Of the more than 56 million people in the US who have a disability, many haven't been able to afford service or have lacked the digital training to access the internet. The result is that Americans with disabilities are three times more likely than those without a disability to say they never go online. When compared with those who don't have a disability, disabled adults are roughly 20 percentage points less likely to say they subscribe to home broadband and own a traditional computer, a smartphone or a tablet.
A years-long legal battle between Domino's Pizza and a man who is blind named Guillermo Robles over whether the pizza chain is required by law to make its website accessible to the disabled could make it all the way up to the Supreme Court in 2019. Should the case go that far, its outcome could forever change the way the internet is regulated — and determine how accessible the internet will be in the future for the roughly 20% of Americans with a disability. Domino's is petitioning the Supreme Court to take up the case after a federal appeals court sided with Robles in 2016.
The Federal Communications Commission adopted an Order setting compensation rates for telecommunications relay services that are supported by the Interstate Telecommunications Relay Services Fund for the Fund Year 2019-2020. In a statement, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said:
The Disability Advisory Committee (DAC) provides advice and recommendations to the Commission on a wide array of disability matters within the jurisdiction of the Commission and facilitate the participation of people with disabilities in proceedings before the Commission. The DAC is being organized under, and operated in accordance with, the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
Sen Tammy Duckworth Joins 5 Other Senators To Introduce Bill to Address Predatory Phone Rates in Criminal Justice System
Sens Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Rob Portman (R-OH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Angus King (I-ME) introduced the Martha Wright-Reed Just and Reasonable Communications Act to strengthen the nation’s criminal justice system. This bipartisan bill would help families keep in touch with their incarcerated family members, and would address long-standing concerns about the prohibitively expensive and predatory price of phone calls that incarcerated individuals at correctional facilities across the US are forced to pay.
The Federal Communications Commission adopted new rules to improve Video Relay Service (VRS), which enables people with hearing and speech disabilities who use sign language to make telephone calls over broadband with a videophone. The FCC also takes steps to safeguard the program from waste, fraud, and abuse. Today’s action will expand VRS users’ access to direct video communications with people who know sign language by enabling direct video calling between VRS users and customer support call centers in appropriate circumstances.
Senator Markey and Rep Doyle Urge Chairman Pai to Reject Line Item Charges for Telecommunications Relay Services on Customer Bills
Sen Ed Markey (D-MA) and House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA) sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai urging the FCC to deny a petition by the ITTA-Voice of America’s Broadband Providers that would permit carriers to display Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund contributions on customer bills. TRS ensures persons with hearing or speech disabilities are able to use necessary telephone services at no additional cost to an individual consumer.
At the Federal Communications Commission’s May meeting, we will take action to advance the goal of security.