Broadband Opportunities for People With Disabilities


[Commentary] Last week the Federal Communications Commission's National Broadband Plan team held a 90-minute town hall meeting with well over 100 participants, covering 16 sets of questions and allowed for participation via the Internet and a phone bridge. All in a day's work, you know. The workshop also included powerful remarks from Special Observers Kareem Dale, the President's Special Assistant for Disability Policy, and Marcie Roth, Senior Advisor, Disabilities Issues at FEMA. Chairman Genachowski and Commissioner Copps were also on hand. The format allowed the FCC to hear from a large number of thoughtful, knowledgeable, and passionate people who care deeply that the agency get this right. The FCC heard comments from the disability community, industry, academia, and government about today's broadband marketplace, the potential that broadband holds for people with disabilities, and strategies for achieving full access. The workshop covered a lot of topics in a short time, some of which include: universal design and the importance of considering accessibility early in the design and development phase; the challenges of interoperability; what companies are currently doing to make their products and support services accessible; consumer needs; technological advances that may drive the increased use of broadband by people with disabilities; sources of funding that could promote greater usage; how we should define broadband; the role of industry consortium in promoting accessibility; the role of government and regulation; and the need to include a principle of inclusion in the National Broadband Plan.

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