Providing Accessible Cell Phones for People with Special Needs
It All Starts with Communication
Links of interest
In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. Inaccessible technology interferes with an individual's ability to obtain and use information quickly and easily. Section 508 was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities, and to encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Under Section 508 (29 U.S.C. ‘ 794d), agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others. http://www.section508.gov
The Hearing Aid Compatibility Act of 1988 (HAC Act) requires that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ensure that all telephones manufactured or imported for use in the United States after August 1989, and all "essential" telephones are hearing aid compatible. "Essential" phones are defined as "coin-operated telephones, telephones provided for emergency use, and other telephones frequently needed for use by persons using such hearing aids." These might include workplace telephones, telephones in confined settings (like hospitals and nursing homes), and telephones in hotel and motel rooms. Secure telephones, as well as telephones used with public mobile and private radio services, are exempt from the HAC Act.
On July 10, 2003, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) modified the exemption for wireless phones under the Hearing Aid Compatibility Act of 1988 to require that wireless phone manufacturers and wireless phone service providers make digital wireless phones accessible to individuals who use hearing aids.
The purpose of the Universal Service Fund is to ensure that consumers in all regions of the Nation have access to quality telecommunications and information services at affordable rates. This is what pays for the relay services for the deaf, hard of hearing, and those with a speech impairment.
To provide consumers with information to help them make informed choices when selecting wireless service, to help ensures that consumers understand their wireless service, to help ensure that consumers understand their wireless service and rate plans, and to continue to provide wireless service that meets consumers' needs, the CTIA and the wireless carriers that are signatories below have developed the following Consumer Code. The carriers that are signatories to this Code have voluntarily adopted the principles, disclosures, and practices here for wireless service provided to individual consumers.
Companies that adhere to the Consumer Code include a not less than 14-day trial period of new service. http://www.ctia.org/wireless_consumers/consumer_code/index.cfm
The wireless E911 program is divided into two parts - Phase I and Phase II. Phase I requires carriers, upon appropriate request by a local Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), to report the telephone number of a wireless 911 caller and the location of the antenna that received the call. Phase II requires wireless carriers to provide far more precise location information, within 50 to 300 meters in most cases. Wireless carriers have until Dec. 31, 2005 to ensure that 95 percent of their cell phones work with the call locating technology producing longitude and latitude. One way is with Global Positioning Satellite computer chips in phones. The other option is for carriers to upgrade their network rather than change the phones.
Some cities and towns will have a program called whereby you can associate personal information (such as disability, medical condition, etc.) to the 911 call center. This type of program was developed in order to meet the needs of citizens who require special medical care or who have disabilities. The Computer Aided Dispatch system provides for the entry of special medical information by address to advise responding public safety units. Please call your local government to obtain more information.
Their mission is to promote universal access to mobile wireless technologies and explore innovative applications in addressing the needs of people with disabilities. They have a guide to choosing a cell phone and a checklist on their website.
Lifeline provides qualifying low income Americans with a discounted or subsidized monthly phone or cell phone service charges. The subsidy can be as high as $10.00 per month but is dependent on your state's requirements.
Link-Up provides qualifying low income Americans with a subsidy of up to $30 (1/2 of the cost or $30 whichever is less) for their phone and cell phone startup fees. Link-Up also allows low income Americans to get up to $200 to be used for set-up fees on the phone or cell phone, interest free for up to one year
AT&T VoiceDial combines two services in one: VoiceDial and Voice Information Services, accessed by dialing *8 from your wireless phone.
With VoiceDial, you can:
AT&T has an exemption program to waive the $4.99 monthly feature charge for their VoiceDial service for those with qualifying disabilities. Normal airtime charges apply to all calls made using VoiceDial.
To learn whether you qualify for our VoiceDial exemption program, or to obtain application and certification forms, please call the AT&T National Center for Customers with Disabilities.
Sprint offers blind, visually impaired and physically disabled customers up to ten (10) Sprint PCS directory Assistance calls with Call Completion per month. In addition, Sprint will automatically provide free Voice Command service to certified customers. Sprint PCS Voice Command is a voice activated dialing platform that can greatly benefit blind, visually impaired and physically disabled customers by reducing handset key punching and reliance on handset display information otherwise required to make calls. In short, Sprint PCS Voice Command lets your voice do the dialing. For example, "Call Bob Smith" or "Call 555-1818." You may also say "Call the Web" for access to News, Weather, Sports and other information that is all spoken to you. You can even listen to email and compose a message -- all by voice. For more details about this offer, please refer to Sprint's FAQ or to obtain an application for this program contact Customer Solutions at (888) 211-4727.
Verizon stopped its voice dialing service due to the fact the service was not generating enough revenue. It might offer free 411 Connect for consumers with disabilities, but check with Verizon directly on this. 411 Connect provided by Verizon is directory assistance with automatic call completion. An operator will assist you when you request numbers, addresses and information for anything from restaurants and movies to the nearest florist. Simply press 4-1-1 and SEND from your handset. $1.25 per call plus airtime±.
The price of using 411 Connect (Directory Assistance) will be changing from $1.25 per call plus airtime to $1.49 per call plus airtime on July 1, 2005.
For more information, contact Verizon at:
* 611 from your mobile phone
Customer Service Department
Post Office Box 105378
Atlanta, GA 30348
AFB puts out a monthly magazine that provides evaluations of technology including cell phones for the blind and visually impaired
Newsline For The Blind © - A Program of National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
Newsline® is a service provided by the National Federation of the Blind for those who cannot read conventional print newspapers. Users across the country access the daily newspapers by dialing a toll-free telephone number and listen as a synthesized voice reads the newspaper of their choice.
The Newsline® service now handles thousands of phone calls each day.
The service is used not only by people who are blind, but also by many senior citizens who are unable to read a newspaper as a result of a stroke or other disabling condition, and by children in schools.
To receive an application form, call the local chapter of NFB or call your state's Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
blindusersLGVXPhones Yahoo groups (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BlindusersLGVXPhones/): The place to talk and learn about how blind or low vision users can get the most out of the LG VX4500 and similar type cell phones. There is the beginnings of a FAQ section for group members located at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BlindusersLGVXPhones/files/LG%20VX4500%20FAQs/. It contains text files of helpful information to LG VX4500 users.
The BlindPhones (http://mosenexplosion.com/mailman/listinfo/blindphones_mosenexplosion.com) list is the place to talk about the various means blind people can now use to have true access to mobile phones. Topics on this list are quite wide ranging, and include hardware and software that provide access, as well as tips, tricks, trips and applications that work well with speech.
To see the collection of prior postings to the list, visit the Blindphones Archives. To post a message to all the list members, send email to Blindphones@mosenexplosion.com. You can subscribe to the list, or change your existing subscription, by visiting the list web address.
Mobile Speak mailing list: Code Factory sponsored mailing list to discuss Mobile Speak issues.
To post a message to all the list members, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can subscribe to the list, or change your existing subscription, by visiting the list web address.
Blind-Mobile (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/blind-mobile/): In this group, blind and visually impaired mobile phone users, who are using screen reading technology on their mobile devices, are free discuss anything from screen reading software, to third party applications that does or does not work on the mobile device.
TALKS user group (http://www.talksusers.com/): This list is for discussion of the Talks software, which enables cell phones running the Symbian OS (such as the Nokia Communicator) to speak for the blind and visually impaired.
To see the collection of prior postings to the list, visit the Talks Archives. (The current archive is only available to the list members.) To post a message to all the list members, send email to email@example.com. You can subscribe to the list, or change your existing subscription, by visiting the list web address.
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