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New FCC "Accessibility Handbook" now available

To: Consumer Contact List
Karen Peltz Strauss

RERC-TA
Re: Accessibility Handbook

Date: March 13, 2003

The following was released today at the FCC.

COMMISSION ACTS TO ENSURE THAT PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES ARE ABLE TO PARTICIPATE FULLY IN FCC PROGRAMS AND ACTIVITIES

New "Accessibility Handbook" Details Uniform Procedures for Accommodations at the Commission

Washington, DC -- The Commission has taken several actions to ensure that persons with disabilities are able to participate fully in FCC programs and activities.

The FCC has long been committed to fostering an attitude of inclusion and a commitment to access in all Commission programs and activities. While certain aspects of providing access for people with disabilities can be clearly visible (e.g., sign language interpreters, ramps, and braille documents), other aspects may easily pass unnoticed (e.g., remembering to stand facing co-workers who are hard of hearing so that they can speechread/lipread).

So that all Commission staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed in providing the accommodations required by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Commission has compiled, for use by the Commission staff, the "Accessibility Handbook" that details a uniform and comprehensive approach for compliance. It is a clear and comprehensive collection of guidelines, information, and procedures to ensure that the Commission is accessible to individuals with disabilities. It will be particularly helpful for planning events so that persons with disabilities will be able to participate fully.

The "Accessibility Handbook" is available on the FCC Intranet and on the FCC's Internet Web site.

In addition, to serve the disability community more efficiently, the Commission stated that requests for accommodation requiring the assistance of other persons (e.g., an American Sign Language interpreter) should be made five business days before a Commission event. If the request is made on less than five days notice, however, the Commission will make every effort to secure the services of a person to provide the requested assistance.

To ensure that its services for persons with disabilities remain reflective of current needs and available accommodations, the Commission will conduct a self-evaluation process every three years. During the reviews the Commission will seek public comment on the accessibility of its programs and activities as required by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

To reflect the language in the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Commission made editorial amendments to its rules to replace the terms "handicap," "individual with a handicap," and "individuals with handicaps" with the terms "disability," "individual with a disability," and "individuals with disabilities," respectively.

Action by the Commission March 4, 2003, by Order (FCC 03-48). Chairman Powell, Commissioners Abernathy, Copps, Martin and Adelstein with Chairman Powell and Commissioners Copps and Adelstein issuing separate statements.

- FCC -

CGB contacts: Susan Magnotti: (202) 418-0871 (voice); (202) 418-0538 (TTY);

e-mail: smagnott@fcc.gov; Helen Chang, Section 504 Officer: (202) 418-0424

(voice); (202) 418-0432 (TTY); e-mail: hchang@fcc.gov

This handbook can be found on the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau's Disability Rights Office's website at www.fcc.gov/cgb/dro.

STATEMENT OF CHAIRMAN MICHAEL K. POWELL
Re: Amendment of Part 1, Subpart N of the Commission's Rules Concerning Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Disability in the Commission's Programs and Activities.

Technology has the power to deliver to Americans with disabilities access that previously was unimaginable. Making access solutions available to the disability community has been a core objective of this Commission - from closed captioning to IP relay. Today's Order ensures that a high level of access extends to the Commission as well, so that all Americans have the opportunity to meaningfully participate in the Commission's work.

Since the Commission first promulgated disability accommodation rules in 1987, there have been many changes in disability law, and the "state of the art" in access technology has advanced considerably. Today's Order brings the Commission's rules up-to-date with these changes. In addition, adoption of the Accessibility Handbook will ensure that the Commission's policies are consistently applied and that all Commission staff are adequately prepared to deal with accommodation requests. The Order further provides that every three years the Commission will review its accommodation policies, so that we may learn and grow from our experiences, and keep pace with ever-changing technology. Only through constant vigilance can we ensure that individuals with disabilities are obtaining the best possible accommodations and the highest level of access.

The creation of this Accessibility Handbook was a significant undertaking. I applaud the leadership demonstrated by the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau and its Disability Rights Office in making this remarkable and practical resource a reality - and a model for other federal agencies and the private sector. Such efforts further secure the FCC's place as one of the most accessible institutions in government - an achievement for which I am tremendously proud.

SEPARATE STATEMENT OF COMMISSIONER MICHAEL J. COPPS
Re: In the Matter of Amendment of Part 1, Subpart N of the Commission's Rules Concerning Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Disability in the Commission's Programs and Activities

I am pleased to support the Section 504 Order and Handbook. This update is long overdue, but all the more welcome for that. I am encouraged that we are updating our regulations today and establishing a regular review of these rules to help keep them up-to-date in the future.

The Commission has made great strides over the past several years to improve accessibility. Among other things, the Commission wrote new rules to ensure that communications products and services are accessible to those with disabilities; overhauled and updated our Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) rules; established and implemented 711 as a nationwide relay number; took action on captioning to ensure that everyone has access to televised information, including most importantly warnings about emergency situations; and allocated spectrum for assistive listening devices.

But we must not rest on these accomplishments; we must build on them. The Commission needs now to look at the important issues of Internet relay, hearing aid compatibility for digital wireless phones, accessibility to digital and interactive television, and implementation of TTY access to E-911 and video description.

My office was fortunate to have an intern with a disability to work with us last summer. The Commission did an outstanding job of providing accommodations for us, but I wonder whether everyone at this agency is aware of the kinds of accommodations the Commission can - and indeed, is required to - provide for our employees with disabilities. This Handbook is a good step to help us understand, and to make us a model not only of compliance -- but of leadership. We can do more. I would like to see this Handbook be used as a model for the Commission to develop other handbooks to address related issues. The Commission has responsibilities under Sections 501 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act to provide accommodations to our employees with disabilities, and to ensure that the electronic and information technology that we use, build, buy, and/or lease is accessible to persons with disabilities. A Section 501 Handbook could be a valuable tool for FCC employees, co-workers, and supervisors of employees with disabilities. Likewise, a Section 508 Handbook would assist all of us at the Commission who work with electronic and information technology to learn how to make decisions when procuring technology. It is not only the right thing to do, it is the law.

I want to thank the Disability Rights Office for its leadership on this item, particularly those who spearheaded the Handbook. Thank you for your dedication to your jobs, and for helping the Commission to be accessible to members of the public with disabilities.

STATEMENT OF COMMISSIONER JONATHAN S. ADELSTEIN

APPROVING
Re: In the Matter of Amendment of Part 1, Subpart N of the Commission's Rules Concerning Non-Discrimination on the Basis of Disability in the Commission's Programs and Activities

I would like to commend the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau for its successful efforts in bringing yet another item to the Commission floor. After reading the handbook, I must say that it is both very thorough and informative.

While a staff member in the United States Senate, I worked to help pass the Americans with Disabilities Act and devoted a great amount of attention to the Social Security Disability Insurance program. These types of issues ring very true to me.

We, as a Commission, need to ensure that we have a uniform and comprehensive approach to ensuring accessibility to all Commission events in order to meet the Rehabilitation Act Section 504 requirements. As a federal entity, this is our mandate. I agree that in order to maintain that uniform approach, we need to periodically review the Commission's current policies and practices every three years in order to take into account any relevant technological advances. Again, I want to thank you for your time on this very important issue.


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