Information on Accessible Cell Phones for People with Special Needs
It All Starts with Communication
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has rules requiring telecommunications manufacturers and service providers to make their products and services accessible to people with disabilities, if readily achievable. These rules implement Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act. Where it is not readily achievable to provide access, Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act requires manufacturers and providers to make their devices and services compatible with peripheral devices and specialized customer premises equipment that are commonly used by people with disabilities, if such compatibility is readily achievable.
Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act applies to all hardware and software used by a telecommunications service provider and all hardware and software a customer would normally use in their home or office such as telephones, fax machines, and answering machines. Devices that provide both telecommunications and non-telecommunications functions are only covered to the extend of the telecommunications it provides. Non-telecommunication functions are not covered by Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act.
Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act applies to both basic and special telecommunications services. This includes regular telephone calls, call waiting, speed dialing, call forwarding, computer-provided directory assistance, call monitoring, caller identification, call tracing, and repeat dialing. In addition, Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act also applies to phone systems that provide callers with menus of choices and voice mail. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers must also comply with Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act.
The information below was taken from the Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act Factsheet and in some ways is more comprehensive than the information found on the FCC tips on filing a complaint link. At least it gives you more numbers to call and e-mail addresses.
Although Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act does not permit consumers to file Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act complaints in the federal courts, consumers may file informal or formal Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act complaints with the FCC. You may send the complaint to the FCC, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20554. In addition to sending a letter, informal complaints may be given to the FCC by any reasonable means, including fax 202-418-0232; phone 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; the Internet www.fcc.gov/cgb/complaints.html. Although there is no time limit for filing complaints, consumers should try to file shortly after they discover the access problem. Informal complaints should include the following information:
Name and address of the person complaining;
Name and address of the manufacturer or service provider;
Details about the equipment or service about which the complaint is made;
Date the equipment or service was purchased, acquired or used, or the complainant attempted to purchase, acquire, or use the item;
Statement of facts supporting the allegation that the item is not accessible;
The specific relief requested; and
The complainantís preferred method of response (from
the company) - e.g., letter, fax,
TTY, Braille, etc.
If a consumer wishes to file a formal complaint, he or she must (1) certify that a good faith effort has been made to work out the problem with the company and (2) submit detailed, factual, and legal documents in support of his or her position. The FCC has the authority to impose a variety of penalties against companies that do not comply with Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act, including damages (against common carriers only), license revocations, cease and desist orders, and retrofitting in extreme cases. A company required to retrofit a product would need to go back and make the product accessible to people with disabilities.
Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act gave the Access Board responsibility for developing guidelines that spell out what makes telecommunications products accessible. The Access Board is an independent Federal agency created in 1973, originally to ensure access to federally funded facilities.
The Federal Communications Commission is responsible for rules and policies to enforce the Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act.
Since so much of Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act depends on the definition of what is readily achievable, the FCC makes readily achievable determinations on a case-by-case basis, usually driven by consumer complaints.
What types of devices are covered under Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act?
Any telecommunications equipment designed, developed and fabricated after the Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act came into effect. This includes telephones, pagers, cell phones, faxes, computers, and many other devices.
When did the Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act start? Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act came into effect on February 8, 1996.
What are manufacturers required to provide under Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act? Manufacturers are required to provide equipment is accessible, if accessibility is readily achievable. If accessibility is not readily achievable, the manufacturer must make the equipment compatible with peripheral devices used by people with disabilities, if that too is readily achievable. Otherwise the manufacturer does not have to do anything under the Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act.
What does readily achievable under Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act mean and who decides what is readily achievable? Under Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act, readily achievable means that it is easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense to the manufacturer of the equipment. The manufacturer gets to decide what is readily achievable.
How will the manufacturer know if there products are accessible under Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act? Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act required the Access Board to issue guidelines regarding accessibility, Telecommunications Act Accessibility Guidelines
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