Technology and Disability Policy Highlights: November 2016

Date of Publication: 
2016 December

In November, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules concerning emergency alert improvements were published in the Federal Register, re/starting the compliance clock countdown. In response to a joint petition filed by advocacy organizations and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the FCC adopted a Memorandum Opinion and Order [MB Docket No. 12-107] extending the compliance deadline to November 22, 2017, for the provision of audio descriptions of visual but non-textual emergency information shown during non-newscast programming. While this extension is effectively a restart of the compliance countdown, the FCC agreed to provide additional time to overcome industry challenges and design a more inclusive, viable solution that all broadcasters could implement. November 3, 2016, marked the effective date for final EAS rule revisions requiring that Emergency Alert System (EAS) participants that make alert messages available in languages other than English report their efforts. The FCC contends that this reporting requirement will help them understand the current state of delivery of EAS messages to the multilingual population. Finally, final rules concerning the FCC rulemaking In the Matter of Improving Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and Community Initiated Alerting [PS Docket No. 15-91] were published in the Federal Register announcing effective dates for several rule amendments aimed at enhancing the utility of WEA messages.  The compliance deadlines span December 1, 2016 (early adopters) to May 1, 2019. Over the next couple of years, the public will begin to receive WEA messages with up to 360 characters that include embedded resources such as URLs. The increased character length and clickable URLs will allow for more actionable and accessible emergency messages. The character extension reduces the need for message originators to rely on acronyms and abbreviations, which is likely to improve message comprehension. Accessible formats such as American Sign Language (ASL) interpreted and audio described video can be provided via the link. Wireless RERC survey and focus group research findings support many of the changes outlined in the Final Rule. With 2016 marking the ten year anniversary of the signing of the WARN Act calling for the establishment of an accessible, flexible, and technologically advanced National Alert System, we are pleased to see FCC actions realizing the goals outlined in the legislation.

This issue also includes announcements about research, publications and industry news regarding increasing accessibility to public information, federal services, and entertainment; as well as technologies and programs to enhance the community integration and independence of people with disabilities. 


The contents of this website were developed under a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant number 90RE5025-01-00). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents of this website do not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.