Accessibility & Disability
CTIA-The Wireless Association® and the wireless industry have been leaders in driving an ever-growing range of choices and opportunities for all consumers, including persons with disabilities. Today, the wireless industry is uniquely positioned to meet the needs of persons with disabilities because of a federal policy framework which provides the flexibility the wireless industry needs to continuously "push the envelope" of accessibility while responding to market demand for innovative wireless devices and services.
Through AccessWireless.org, CTIA and its member companies continue to collaborate with consumer organizations representing persons with disabilities and directly engage with consumers to assure continued progress in accessible wireless products and solutions. AccessWireless.org is a clearinghouse of information about wireless accessibility with tips, links, FAQs and tutorials about wireless accessibility features, applications and Hearing Aid Compatible (HAC) wireless devices.
In a short period, the wireless industry has quickly transformed from the classic voice-only handheld mobile telephone into a diverse array of all-in-one mobile devices for voice, text, Internet, video and applications, or "apps." Since mid-2008 with the first application store, there are now hundreds of thousands of apps available to all consumers, vastly expanding the market for accessible specialized and mainstream products and solutions.
For these rapidly evolving wireless voice, video and text-based communications products and services, CTIA believes flexible and reasonable accessibility requirements at the federal level will further industry innovation, preserve collaboration between industry and the accessibility community, and ensure that no one will be left behind.
- The wireless industry needs flexibility to design and produce the innovative products and services persons with disabilities have come to expect. Progress in developing newer and more accessible devices and services for individuals with disabilities is enhanced by the rapid evolution in innovative mainstream wireless products and services or compatibility with assistive technologies (AT). Although the accessibility community recognizes that not every device or service available must consider every recognized disability to meet the goals of "universal design," wireless products and services offer accessible solutions unmatched by other communications industries.
- Reasonable and flexible accessibility requirements will maintain the industry's ability to lead the world in innovative wireless products and services for all consumers. Federal laws require that commercial wireless telecommunications services, such as voice, are accessible to persons with disabilities under the "readily achievable" standard. CTIA believes this standard has successfully allowed industry to address accessibility while responding to market demand for innovative wireless products and services. However, CTIA also understands that reasonable accessibility requirements may be needed to ensure accessibility in expanding and evolving mobile broadband services, such as text, video and IP-based communications.
- Consumer awareness about accessible wireless products and solutions should be the primary goal of policymakers, regulators and representatives of persons with disabilities. With AccessWireless.org, CTIA is a leader in providing consumers with the information they need to make informed choices about accessible wireless products and services. While reporting requirements are typically used for enforcement purposes, CTIA supports the development of a clearinghouse, similar to AccessWireless.org, and additional outreach efforts to ensure persons with disabilities are familiar with all the information that is currently available so they can find and navigate the diverse accessible wireless communications products and services.
- Wireless manufactures and service providers should ensure accessibility of the devices and services they directly offer or review.With the transition from the "walled garden," wireless products and services offer endless opportunities for application developers and third parties not affiliated with a wireless manufacturer or carrier to serve consumers. For example, individuals with disabilities can add specialized accessible solutions or utilize accessibility features with the mainstream applications of their choice. Although this "open" wireless ecosystem has benefited persons with disabilities, handset manufacturers and service providers can ensure the accessibility of services, products and applications over which they can control the quality of service and compliance with relevant requirements.
- Universal Service reforms are needed to encourage broadband adoption for all, including persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities are among the lowest adopters of broadband services for a variety of reasons, including awareness, accessibility and, notably, economic resources. The federal Universal Service program should be reformed to permit all consumers, which include persons with disabilities, to take advantage of broadband services for health care, education, employment and public safety purposes.
- Hearing Aid Compatibility (HAC) is a priority for the wireless industry. Through a collaborative process, CTIA and our member companies worked successfully with representatives of consumers with hearing loss to develop standards and requirements for wireless device compatibility with hearing aids. Today, the wireless industry is meeting its obligations to provide HAC wireless devices to all consumers. CTIA, our member companies and the hearing loss community agree that these requirements should be extended to all new wireless devices intended to be held to the ear for voice service.
- The wireless industry is increasingly addressing closed captioning through built-in or Internet video services. Today, many wireless devices and services offer video capabilities whether commercial produced or consumer generated. Increasingly, these devices also offer closed captioning capabilities in the devices media player or Internet video services formatted for mobile devices.
- CTIA supports efforts to transition from TTY to provide text-based communications during emergencies. CTIA and its member companies strongly support providing persons with disabilities equal access to emergency services, whether 911, mobile alerts or other critical services, and are actively working with government, accessibility and public safety representatives on the long-term transition of the nation's 911 system to an IP-based 911 system with careful attention to persons with disabilities.
Last Updated: July 2010