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July 23, 2020

Wireless Celebrates 30 Years of the ADA and a More Accessible Future for All .

Wireless Celebrates 30 Years of the ADA and a More Accessible Future for All

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The wireless industry has revolutionized communication from the first handheld cellphone in 1983 to 5G-enabled innovations today, but perhaps the most exciting – and important – area of change has been the advancements in wireless accessibility. As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – and later this year, the 10th anniversary of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) – the wireless industry is proud to continue to collaborate with a community of people with disabilities to prioritize inclusivity and ensure the benefits of wireless are accessible to everyone.

The wireless industry has made incredible strides in the past 30 years to empower millions of people with disabilities. And our work is not done. On the anniversary of the ADA and every day, we are proud to partner with the accessibility community to continue to break down barriers and create a more accessible future for all.

Advancing Accessibility in Wireless

Wireless technology breaks down barriers to communication, independent living, employment opportunities, and civic engagement for millions of Americans with disabilities. Accessibility regulations like the ADA and CVAA spurred new innovation in wireless and established clear goals that encourage collaboration in compliance.

4G connectivity launched a wave of advancements for mobile devices and helped usher in a new era in voice, text, and video communication. Today, we can now find hearing-aid compatible handsets nearly anywhere we look. People can talk, text, real-time text, or video chat with friends, family, and co-workers. Digital personal assistants are designed with users with disabilities in mind. We rely on wireless emergency alerts (WEAs) to inform us of an emergency, and leverage text-to-911 in certain areas to reach critical services after a disaster. These offerings are all revolutionary capabilities for accessibility.

Illustration of an autonomous vehicle on an open road.

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Autonomous vehicles enhance mobility for people with disabilities.

A woman in a blue dress crosses a street using a smart cane device.

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This smart cane helps people who are blind navigate their communities.

A young woman uses a new Braille device while another woman looks on at a youth advocacy workshop hosted by Verizon and Deafblind Citizens Action.

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Verizon and Deafblind Citizens Action host youth advocacy workshop.

Life-Changing Innovation Enabled by 5G

With 5G, we can expect even greater technological advancements and opportunities in sectors we all rely on like healthcare, education, transportation, and public safety. The faster speeds and lower latency of 5G will enable life-changing devices and services that will benefit the diverse needs of all wireless consumers, such as:

  • 5G-connected autonomous vehicles will reduce transportation obstacles for the accessibility community, creating new opportunities for employment and community access.
  • 5G-enhanced geo-location and navigation technologies will make it easier for people who are blind or low-vision to navigate their communities, identify their destinations, find a seat on the next bus, and more.
  • Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence technologies can help the one-in-four U.S. adults with disabilities that impact major life activities, including by assisting with rehabilitation, pain management, and improved mobility.
  • 5G networks will support more connected appliances and IoT devices that can automate household work and everyday tasks, allowing for greater personal autonomy for people with disabilities.
  • Enhanced video streaming capabilities and quality will benefit those who communicate in American Sign Language (ASL) and expanding telework employment opportunities for people with various abilities.

‘Wireless for All’

A year ago, CTIA relaunched AccessWireless.org to keep pace with the latest information about wireless resources and tools available for people with disabilities, seniors, veterans, and their families and caregivers. The GARI tool allows users to search and compare devices and apps, while our database of industry resources is a detailed list of the devices and services offered by wireless carriers and our community partners.

The wireless industry has made incredible strides in the past 30 years to empower millions of people with disabilities. And our work is not done. On the anniversary of the ADA and every day, we are proud to partner with the accessibility community to continue to break down barriers and create a more accessible future for all.

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