Originally published: April 13, 2011
Last updated: April 13, 2011 - 11:20am
On April 6, 2011, the Federal Communications Commission established a National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP) to enable low-income individuals who are deaf-blind to access 21st Century communications services. The pilot program will help ensure that qualified individuals have access to the Internet, and advanced communications, including interexchange services and advanced telecommunications and information services.
This action implements a provision of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA). The CVAA allocated $10 million annually from the Interstate Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund for this nationwide equipment distribution effort. The FCC concluded that the best approach would be to establish a two-year pilot program, with the option of extending this for a third year, so that the FCC can assess the most efficient and effective method of administering the NDBEDP on a permanent basis. Under the NDBEDP pilot program, the FCC will certify and provide funding to one entity in each state to distribute equipment to low-income individuals who are deaf-blind.
The FCC will make the full amount of the authorized funding, $10 million, available for each year of the pilot program. Of this amount, the FCC will set aside up to $500,000 per year for national outreach efforts. Each state will initially receive a minimum initial funding allocation of $50,000, with the balance of the available funds allocated in proportion to each state's population. Certified programs will have to submit documentation to support claims for reimbursement for NDBEDP equipment and related services, up to each state's funding allocation. Certified programs must submit reports on their activities and expenses every six months, disclose potential conflicts of interest, and conduct annual independent audits.
The FCC adopted the following rules and policies for the NDBEDP pilot program:
- Certified Programs: Entities must apply for certification to receive funding support under the NDBEDP pilot program within 60 days of the effective date of the rules. The Commission will certify only one entity for each state.
- Consumer Eligibility: "Individuals who are deaf-blind," as defined in the Helen Keller National Center Act, are eligible to apply for equipment. Because of the unusually high medical and disability-related costs incurred by these individuals, the Order sets a low-income eligibility threshold of 400% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
- Equipment: The Order permits distribution of specialized and off-the-shelf equipment, separately or in combination, as long as it meets the needs of the deaf-blind individual and makes communications services covered under the CVAA accessible. The reasonable costs of the equipment distributed, warranties, maintenance, repairs, and refurbishing will be covered.
- Related Services: The reasonable costs of state and local outreach efforts, individual assessments of a deaf-blind person's communications equipment needs, equipment installation, and individualized training of consumers on how to use the equipment will also be covered under the NDBEDP.
- National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program
- What New Deaf-Blind Equipment Program Should Look Like
- FCC Townhall on Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Programming Accessibility Act in San Diego
- National Broadband Plan Workshop on Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities (see summary)
- White House Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act
- FCC Names New Administrator Of Interstate TRS Fund
- FCC Proposes to Update Rules Allowing Accessibility to Advanced Communications to 54 Million Consumers With Disabilities
- FCC Seeking Nominations for the Second Annual Chairman's Awards for Advancement in Accessibility
- National Broadband Plan Workshop (Broadband Accessibility for People with Disabilities II)
- Modernize accessibility laws, rules and related subsidy programs
- FCC Open Meeting (March 2011)
- FCC Presentation on Implementation of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act
- FCC Names New Consumer Advisory Committee
- Biennial Report to Congress as Required by the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010
- FCC Adopts Accessibility Rules