In October, Congress passed a bill that will make the mobile phones and the Web more accessible to Americans with disabilities. Specifically, the 21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act does a few things for persons with disabilities (PWB)--it will let them choose from a broader selection of mobile and smart phones that provide fully accessible email, web browsers, and text messaging, it will make sure Internet-enabled phones are hearing-aid compatible, it will require Internet based communication technologies (services, network and equipment) provided by Telcommunication companies and VoIP providers to be accessible, it will make new TV shows that are captioned available online with closed captioning, and TV remote controls will include a button to make it easier to obtain closed captioning services.
We say, "Rock on!" to Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who authored the bill. We love his quote:
"Whether it's a Braille reader or a broadband connection, access to technology is not a political issue--it's a participation issue. We've moved from Braille to broadcast, from broadband to the BlackBerry. We've moved from spelling letters in someone's palm to the PalmPilot. And we must make all of these devices accessible."
We also applaud Verizon's efforts as they played a key role in leading the push for new legislation, because it is all about participation.
We'd also like to give a shout out to Steve Jacobs, the CEO of Apps4Androids, who is an outstanding example of leadership, attitude, and foresight. In his comments to this Washington Post article about the bill, he said,
"Developing innovative consumer electronics products that accommodate the wants, needs, and preferences of as many individual consumers as technically possible and economically feasible makes good business sense to me...I would encourage any decision-making manager of any consumer electronics company to...challenge their designers to create products that are more accessible, usable and useful..."
By focusing his company's software development activities on accessibility, he was able to increase his company's user base from 0 to 775,000 users, in 18 months. That's over three-quarters of a million new users!
What about you? In the U.S. alone, there are 34.5 million people that have hearing trouble, and 19.4 million who have vision trouble (CDC, FastStats: Disability and Functioning). Can they use all of the online products and services you offer?