As one of the founding members of the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT), AAPD worked to ensure that legislative and regulatory safeguards were put in place in order for people with disabilities to gain greater access to evolving high-speed broadband, wireless, and other Internet-based technologies. To that end, we were instrumental in working to update the Communications Act with the protections and provisions included in the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA). We continue to monitor, propose, and support legislation that enables people with disabilities with improved access to emerging technology.
- 54% of adults living with a disability use the internet, compared with 81% of adults without disabilities (Pew Research Center).
- 41% of adults living with a disability have broadband at home, compared with 69% of those without a disability (Pew Research Center).
- 67% of disabled Americans ages 18 to 64 own a desktop or laptop computer, compared with 84% those without a disability (Pew Research Center).
We promote positive change for people with disabilities in the following technology areas:
- Assistive and adaptive technology
- Closed captioning
- Video description
- Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) for persons with hearing and speech disabilities
- Usable wireless connection to medical and other service devices
- Internet website accessibility
- Affordability of telecommunications products and services
- Affordability and availability of advanced medical devices
- Accessibility of health information technologies and systems
- Accessible and usable interfaces on consumer electronics products
- Promoting greater broadband usage by persons with disabilities
There are several federal laws that address technology accessibility for people with disabilities, including the American with Disabilities Act, the Telecommunications Act and the Rehabilitation Act. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities also includes several provisions on access to technology.
AAPD supports accessible, usable and affordable Internet technologies and telecommunication devices, and rigorous enforcement of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act and the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act.
21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act
On October 8, 2010 President Obama signed into law the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act to ensure that people with disabilities are not left behind as we move into the next era of Internet and digital communications and that they have equal access to new communications technologies.
The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act is a major step forward in ensuring accessibility, usability and affordability of broadband, wireless and Internet technologies for people with disabilities.
The CVAA updates the communications accessibility laws of the 1980s and 90s to match 21st century technology and expands safeguards in the areas of:
- Communications – access to new telephone technologies, text messaging, Internet and broadband
- Video Programming – increased availability of closed captioning and video description, increased accessibility of programming devices and guides and Internet and digital technologies
AAPD works towards proper implementation of the new law by monitoring proposed regulations and commenting appropriately.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires access to electronic and information technology procured by Federal agencies. The U.S. Access Board develops accessibility standards for the various technologies covered by the law. These standards have been incorporated into the Federal government’s procurement regulations. AAPD works to ensure that standards for federal procurement include the needs of people with all types of disabilities. AAPD is a representative member of the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee (TEITAC), established by the Access Board to advise on standards and guidelines.
Visit the U.S. Access Board site for the statutory language, current regulations, updates, and other information.
AAPD Technology Forum
Our monthly AAPD Technology Forum serves as a strategic meeting of national disability advocacy organizations and representatives from the technology industry with a mission to holistically drive and accelerate innovations to advance the interests of underrepresented groups. The accessibility of various technologies, devices, and applications continues to be an essential part of the forum’s deliberations.
Assistive technology (AT) provides assistive and adaptive devices that help people with disabilities engage in life’s activities. Examples of assistive technology include communication boards, computer screen reading software, wheelchairs, pencil grips, and spell checking software. It promotes greater independence by allowing people with disabilities to accomplish tasks in employment, education, technology use, and everyday life that would otherwise have been difficult or impossible.
- Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs
- National Council on Independent Living Technology Task Force
- ITEM Coalition
Assistive technology opens up employment opportunities for people with disabilities. For more information, see AAPD’s employment page.
AAPD monitors implementation of new laws and regulations to ensure that telephone, television, Internet and broadband and other types of technology are accessible to people with disabilities.
Internet and Broadband
Internet and Broadband services are increasingly important means of communication and participation in all aspects of life. The CVAA provides safeguards for Internet-based communications and technologies to be accessible by people with disabilities.
High Speed Internet and People with Disabilities
High speed Internet empowers people with disabilities to become more independent. An Internet connection with enough speed to allow two-way voice, data and video transfer removes barriers that keep people with disabilities from participating in everyday activities such as employment, education, civic responsibilities and social connection.
Broadband Policy and People With Disabilities
Surveys in the U.S. consistently report that people with disabilities have only half the rate of Internet access of people without a disability. Despite increased access in recent years, people with disabilities still face a significant digital divide in having the tools to make use of the incredible resources of the Internet.
A report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Broadband: Intended Outcomes and Effectiveness of Efforts to Address Adoption Barriers Are Unclear, investigated many of the adoption barriers facing people with disabilities, including accessibility. Read more about the National Broadband Plan and GAO’s findings here.
Telecommunications & IP Technology
Using a telephone is key for communication, independence and safety. Making phone calls is matter-of course for most people. However, those with disabilities encounter numerous barriers if phone systems are not set up to accommodate to their needs. Solutions include telecommunications relay services; manufacturing phone devices and providing services that are accessible and usable, including hearing aid compatibility; and ensuring industry standards for accessibility. The 21st Century Communications Act expands accessibility to relay services, text messaging technologies, telephones and other telecommunications devices.
Dialing 911 is the most familiar and effective way Americans have of finding help in an emergency. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires all Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) to provide direct, equal access to their services for people with disabilities. AAPD stays engaged in these issues as new solutions for 911 access are developed and proposed for our populations.
Television is an important source of information, entertainment and news for millions of Americans. However, individuals with hearing and vision disabilities may not have access to video programming unless televisions are designed to meet their needs. Additionally, people with all types of disabilities may have difficulties using the remotes and controls that manage television and video programming. Solutions addressed by new law include closed captioning; video description; and accessible interfaces and controls where on-screen text menus or other visual indicators are used.
The Internet has become an essential part of many people’s lives. But platforms such as social media, online banking, and informational searches must be made accessible for many in the disability community to access them. This includes image descriptions, captioned videos, and easy website navigation. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)’s Web Accessibility Initiative publishes guidelines and resources for creating, testing, and advocating for accessible web resources. Read more about them here.
AAPD is a member of the Disability Advisory Committee (DAC), which aims to provide advice and recommendations to the Commission on a wide array of disability issues within the FCC’s jurisdiction. The DAC provides a means for stakeholders with interests in accessibility issues to exchange ideas, facilitate the participation of consumers with disabilities in proceedings before the Commission, and assist the Commission in educating the greater disability community and covered entities on disability-related matters.
The National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) represents organizations that advocate for the human and civil rights of people with disabilities throughout the U.S. The NCIL Task Force on Technology advocates for assistive technology (AT) that enables and enhances independence for people with disabilities. The mission of this NCIL subcommittee is to see that people with disabilities have access to the crucial technology they need to live independently.
The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Task Force on Telecommunications and Technology deals with issues related to access to telecommunications and assistive technology in education, employment and independent living.
This industry-led coalition works to make broadband access to the Internet available to every household in the nation and to enhance the broadband experience for all users, including people with disabilities.
The Access Board is an independent federal agency that promotes equality for people with disabilities through leadership in accessible design and the development of accessibility guidelines and standards.
The Independence through Enhancement of Medicaid and Medicare (ITEM) Coalition is devoted to raising awareness and building support for policies that will enhance access to assistive devices, technologies and related services for people with disabilities and chronic conditions. The Coalition is consumer-led and has over seventy member organizations—including a diverse set of disability organizations, aging organizations, other consumer groups, labor organizations, voluntary health associations, and non-profit provider associations.
To file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding Access to Communications Services and Equipment, click here.