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Verizon Section 255 Settlement

To: Consumer Contact List
From: Karen Peltz Strauss, RERC-TA
Re: Consumer Contact List - Verizon Section 255 Settlement
Date: August 30, 2004

On August 27, 2004, Bonnie O'Day reached a settlement with Verizon Wireless over a formal FCC complaint that she had filed against the company alleging its failure to make its cell phones accessible to people who are blind and visually impaired. Although the exact terms of the settlement are not being released, Verizon will be introducing an accessible phone later this year, and undertaking various steps to make its products more usable by people with vision disabilities.

News stories about the settlement can be found at:

PRNewswire:http://www.prnewswire.com/news/index_mail.shtml?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/08-27-2004/0002239684&EDATE=and

RCR News:http://www.rcrnews.com/cgi-bin/news.pl?newsId=19397

In addition, Spiegel and McDiarmid, the firm that represented Bonnie O'Day, issued the following press release:

For Immediate Release:

August 27, 2004

DR. BONNIE O'DAY AND VERIZON WIRELESS SETTLE SECTION 255

FORMAL COMPLAINT PROCEEDING

WASHINGTON, D.C.---Verizon Wireless and Dr. Bonnie O'Day announced today that they have reached a settlement agreement resolving a complaint before the Federal Communications Commission concerning the accessibility of Verizon Wireless' wireless products and services. In a complaint filed with the FCC in February 2003, Dr. O'Day, who has impaired vision, contended that Verizon Wireless was violating Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 by failing to make its wireless telephones and services accessible to people with visual disabilities. Verizon Wireless answered the complaint asserting that its products and services are accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities consistent with the requirements of Section 255. The parties entered discussions that resulted in the settlement of this dispute. Dr. O'Day and Verizon Wireless have moved the FCC to dismiss the complaint.

Dr. O'Day praised the settlement, stating: "I filed the complaint because blind and low vision people were frustrated with the pace of progress achieved by the wireless industry. Verizon Wireless' commitment in this settlement to breaking down the barriers to accessibility, however, makes them a leader in providing wireless access to blind and visually impaired consumers."

Terms of the settlement are not being released. The parties did, however, disclose that later this year Verizon Wireless intends to introduce a moderately priced wireless handset with new accessibility features to address some of the concerns raised by Dr. O'Day. Verizon Wireless has also taken additional steps to provide people with disabilities easier access to user information such as bills, manuals, and product information in accessible formats; to modify its website to be more user friendly for blind and low vision individuals; and to modify employee training on disability issues. Verizon Wireless is currently assessing additional, more advanced speech output capabilities for mobile handsets carried on its network with a view toward incorporating these capabilities in future models.

Dr. O'Day had filed a similar formal complaint against Audiovox Communications Corp. which was settled last December.

Dr. O'Day was represented by Scott H. Strauss and James N. Horwood of Spiegel & McDiarmid, who took the case on a pro bono basis, both because of its potential significance to visually impaired mobile handset customers and to the companies that offer products and services to them. Earlier this year, Mr. Strauss received the American Foundation for the Blind's 2004 Access Award in appreciation of his efforts. Spiegel & McDiarmid, a firm focused on working in the public interest, represents states and local governments and consumers in infrastructure issues, and in particular in energy, telecommunications, environmental, and transportation matters, government affairs, and litigation. For more information about the firm, see www.spiegelmcd.com.

Contact:

Scott Strauss

scott.strauss@spiegelmcd.com
202.879.4035

Jeffrey Nelson
jeffrey.nelson@verizonwireless.com
908.306.4824


This page last updated:August 30, 2004

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