Technology and Disability Policy Highlights - September 2017

Date of Publication: 
2017 October
“Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can” was the theme of September 2017’s National Preparedness Month. Though the annual awareness month has come to an end, remember to stay ready. For emergency preparedness and planning tips for individuals with disabilities/access and functional needs, please visit The nation’s Emergency Alert System (EAS) was tested on September 27, 2017, to evaluate and ensure its readiness in the event of a presidential emergency message. The Wireless RERC took the nationwide test as an opportunity to gather data on the accessibility of the visual and audio elements of the EAS test message. 
Findings will be reported to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other relevant agencies and industries. These will be recommendations on improving access to emergency information specifically, and design considerations in general, when captions and audio are incorporated into apps or other media. 
The FCC’s Chairman, Ajit Pai, continued the public safety theme with his announcement Urg[ing] Apple To Activate FM Chips To Promote Public Safety. The wireless industry has long resisted this move, but over the years, more and more phone models have activated the FM chip which allows the user to listen to the radio via their cell phone. In another effort regarding mobile phones, the FCC is expected to release, in early October, rule changes to hearing aid compatibility (HAC) regulations.  It will address, among other things, moving towards a requirement to steadily increase the amount of wireless handsets required to be HAC compliant, and application of volume control rules to mobile phones to enhance the quality of the sound for individual user needs.
In Wireless RERC News, we launched our latest Survey of User Needs (SUN). The SUN is the Wireless RERC's cornerstone survey on wireless technology use by people with disabilities. It has been completed by over 7,500 consumers with disabilities since it was first launched in 2001. This latest version represents the 6th version of the survey, which is updated periodically in response to changes in technology. In addition to questions about cell phone and tablet use, this latest version of the SUN collects information about wearables, "smart" home technologies, and other next-generation wirelessly connected devices. User responses will help designers and engineers make new wireless devices and services for people with disabilities. Data from the SUN also provides important information to the wireless industry, government regulators, and other researchers to help them make wireless technology more accessible and more useful to people with all types of disabilities.
The survey is available at If you have a disability, please consider taking this survey. If you know someone who has a disability, please forward the survey to them. 
This issue also includes news about the ADA legislation, Nation Disability Employment Awareness Months, smart homes, accessible travel, wearables, artificial intelligence, and more.


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.