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Make Telecom Update Your Highest Priority, Disability Groups Tell Congress
[July 25, 2005]

Make Telecom Update Your Highest Priority, Disability Groups Tell Congress

WASHINGTON, July 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Four prominent disability rights organizations strongly urged Congress to make update of the 1996 Telecommunications Act their highest priority to foster the more rapid deployment of broadband technology to all Americans and to include provisions that ensure access to communications for persons with disabilities.

In a letter sent to members of the House and Senate Commerce committees in conjunction with the 15th Anniversary of the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), the American Association for Persons with Disabilities (AAPD), the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and the World Institute on Disability (WID) state, "Broadband is not just nice to have. It is a necessity of basic communication for people with disabilities. With the promise of ubiquitous true broadband service, we can imagine a day when the life functions of many people with disabilities are truly revolutionized."
Citing a report issued last month, Two-Way Technologies: A History of the Struggle to Communicate, by Hofstra University Professor Frank Bowe, the groups underscore the fact that the quality of life for many people with disabilities rests on decisions that only Congress can make. One of the report's recommendations is that people with disabilities be assured accessibility to services delivered over broadband connections, just as they now are to the same services offered over traditional phone lines. Said NAD chief executive officer Nancy J. Bloch: "Thousands of deaf and hard of hearing Americans are now 'making phone calls' using high-speed broadband connections. We can sign to each other, just as other people speak to each other. Since the functionality is the same, so too should be the regulations governing the service."
"New technologies are increasing the independence and productivity of many Americans. As we develop applications like Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) telephony, wireless broadband Internet connectivity and other advances, it is critical that these technologies increase the inclusion, independence and empowerment of Americans with disabilities, as well as America's growing senior population," stated Andrew Imparato, President and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities.
"The U.S. Congress had a bold vision when it enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act fifteen years ago. To fully realize that vision, we need telecom policy reform that ensures the incorporation of accessibility features in new technologies from the design phase," said Melanie Brunson, executive director of the American Council of the Blind.
NAD, AAPD, ACB and WID urge Congress to develop and pass comprehensive telecommunications legislation that will include provisions that ensure access for people with disabilities.
Mr. Bowe's report is available online at
About AAPD
American Association of People with Disabilities is the largest national nonprofit cross-disability member organization in the United States, dedicated to ensuring economic self-sufficiency and political empowerment for the more than 56 million Americans with disabilities. AAPD works in coalition with other disability organizations for the full implementation and enforcement of disability nondiscrimination laws, particularly the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
About WID
The World Institute on Disability (WID) is a nonprofit research, public policy and advocacy center dedicated to promoting the civil rights and full societal inclusion of people with disabilities. WID's work focuses on four areas: employment and economic development; accessible health care and Personal Assistance Services; inclusive technology design; and international disability and development. Over half of the Board of Directors and staff are people with disabilities and are respected national leaders in the disability field as well as in industry, government and social services.
About NAD
The NAD, as a national federation of state association and organizational affiliates, safeguards the civil rights of 28 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States of America. The NAD also offers grassroots and youth leadership development, and legal expertise across a broad spectrum of areas including but not limited to accessibility, education, employment, healthcare, mental health, rehabilitation, technology, telecommunications, and transportation. Specific services include public information and dissemination; information and referral services; technical assistance, training seminars; national and regional conferences; legal and public policy analysis, guidance and research; and litigation consultation services.
About ACB
The Council strives to improve the well-being of all blind and visually impaired people by: serving as a representative national organization of blind people; elevating the social, economic and cultural levels of blind people; improving educational and rehabilitation facilities and opportunities; cooperating with the public and private institutions and organizations concerned with blind services; encouraging and assisting all blind persons to develop their abilities and conducting a public education program to promote greater understanding of blindness and the capabilities of blind people.
Disability; World Institute on Disability; American Council of the Blind
American Association of People with Disabilities; World Institute on

CONTACT: Andrew Imparato of American Association of People withDisabilities, +1-202-457-0046; Deborah Kaplan of World Institute onDisability, +1-510-301-4804; Melanie Brunson of the American Council of theBlind, +1-202-467-5085; or Anita Farb of the National Association of the Deaf,+1-301-587-1788

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