COAT Leader AFB to FCC: Bleak Offerings by Wireless Industry for People who are Blind

On September 13, 2010 COAT leading affiliate American Foundation of the Blind (AFB) filed Comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on "Assessment of Barriers to Accessible Mobile Technology," FCC Docket 10-145.

In their Comments, AFB noted how they devote substantial resources to the evaluation of the accessibility of mobile technology and they attempt to track the market in order to provide current information to individuals with vision loss as well as for government and industry. AFB wrote that "the landscape of accessible mobile devices which can be used by the nation’s blind and visually impaired citizens is bleak."

They add: "Blind and visually impaired Americans are forced to choose among a few mobile devices with access to only a few functions, or compelled to buy special software that costs at least two to five times more than the mobile device itself."

AFB's comments focus on several topics:

  • Limitations of Third Party Accessibility
  • Defining Accessibility
  • Lack of Accessibility Information
  • Little Accessibility in Basic Phones
  • Little Accessibility in Feature Phones
  • Carrier Performance

AFB writes in the Comments to the FCC: "After nearly 15 years operating under current law, AFB is forced to report that very little meaningful accessibility has been achieved in mobile technology. Despite the availability of a wide range of mobile devices, available from a variety of carriers, only Verizon and AT&T have taken significant steps to provide meaningful accessibility to their customers with vision loss. ... The complete absence of accessible prepay options is a particularly disturbing and unacceptable development."

Also commenting were a number of consumers, among them Kelly Pierce, James J. Elekes, Eileen Foley, Byron Sykes, and Harry Brown. Comments have also been filed by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), Sprint and CTIA. Further Reply comments are expected by the September 30 deadline from other advocacy and industry organizations. Read all Comments online at the FCC.

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