Technology and Disability Highlights - February 2018

Date of Publication: 
2018 March
In legislative news, the Steve Gleason Enduring Voices Act of 2017 [H.R.2465] was passed in the House as part of the bill to temporarily increase the federal government’s budget. The legislation allows for those that purchased voice-generating devices, also referred to as Alternative and Augmentative Communications (AAC), to be reimbursed through Medicaid and Medicare. Originally passed in 2015, this new version would make the Steve Gleason Act of 2015 permanent. The much-debated ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017 [H.R.620] passed by a House vote of 225-192. H.R. 620, intended to prevent the need to file a complaint with Department of Justice (DoJ) or to pursue a private civil lawsuit, proposes to require a person/persons with a disability alleging ADA violations first to notify the entity in writing, allowing them the opportunity to remedy alleged ADA violations. 
Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) regulations regarding Hearing Aid Compatibility (HAC), Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA), and next-generation television were published in the Federal Register as Final Rules. The revised HAC regulations include a new volume control standard for more precise audio processing and amplification on wireline and wireless telephones, with a compliance deadline of February 28, 2020, and March 1, 2021(respectively). The WEA Final Rule addresses geo-targeting of alert messages, consumer disclosure of the device‘s geo-targeting capabilities, alert message preservation on the mobile device, the definition of “WEA participation,” and Spanish-language alert implementation. The compliance deadline for the new geotargeting rules is November 30, 2019. Finally, the FCC final rule, Authorizing Permissive Use of the “Next Generation'' Broadcast Television Standard Report & Order [GN Docket No. 16-142], advances efforts to transition from legacy systems to support advanced technologies. 
In Wireless RERC news, Ex Parte comments were submitted to the FCC replying to the Hurricane Response Public Notice [PS Docket # 17-344], and on February 27, 2018, Dr. Helena Mitchell presented the comments at an Ex Parte meeting at the FCC. The meeting was attended by representatives from the Office of the Chairman, the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, and the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. The intent of the comments was to supply unbiased considerations to help ensure that individuals with disabilities and other populations disproportionately impacted by disasters have alternative and accessible means to receive emergency information when cell coverage is disrupted and access to power is limited.
This issue also includes news about a flying display, accessible transit via sensor technology and virtual assistance, and more.


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