As August concluded, attention was paid to voters with disabilities’ access to upcoming elections. Hawaii passed Act 136, expanding access to electronic ballots, which had previously only been available to military personnel. Similarly, a Virginia federal court released a consent decree regarding expanded accessibility options. The Decree requires that all counties and cities in Virginia have electronic absentee ballots that are compatible with screen-reader technology and other assistive technologies.
While August marks the annual Congressional recess, work continued at regulatory agencies. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released an Order [CG Docket No. 03-123; CG Docket No. 10-51] extending waivers to providers of relay services to address the increased demand for communications access during the COVID-19 pandemic. In another, COVID-19-related Order [WC Docket No. 11-42], the FCC granted waiver extensions for the Lifeline program until November 30, 2020. The FCC also released a Notice of Inquiry regarding the deployment of broadband services and the collection of broadband deployment data. This Notice requests feedback and comments on the 2020 Broadband Deployment Report to guide their discussion for the upcoming 2021 Broadband Deployment Report.
In Wireless RERC news, we released a video of Pepper, a socially assistive robot designed to provide respite for caregivers of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Pepper reads stories, dances, and even does Tai Chi. Watch Pepper in Action on the Wireless RERC YouTube Channel. The Wireless RERC also submitted comments to the FCC in response to their Public Notice Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Seeks Comment On Tentative Findings for the 2020 Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act Biennial Report [CG Docket No. 10-213]. Overall, the comments indicated the industry's growth in the accessibility and affordability of advanced communications technologies, but also noted that access gaps remain, particularly regarding new communications technologies. Finally, data collection continues for the 2020 Survey of User Needs and the Survey on Access to COVID-19 Information.
This issue also includes news about on-device artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, assistive technologies, wearables, distance learning, and more.