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Communications And Video Accessibility Act (2010 – 2013)

(2010) Deaf and hard of hearing advocates were thrilled to have Karen Peltz Strauss and other leaders in the FCC. Gregory Hlibok becomes the first person with a disability to become Chief of Disability Rights Office at the FCC. U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) awards $15M grant to Communication Service for the Deaf based in South Dakota. FCC begins efforts to reform TRS industry. President Obama announces new accessibility regulations and signs executive order to hire 100,000 people with disabilities on the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilties Act. Deaf-blind groups push for the use of Communication Facilitators, deaf intepreters to assist in video relay calls. New Soundbite bone conduction system uses teeth to help people hear. Association for Airline Passenger Rights calls on the US Department of Transportation to require commercial air carriers to provide captions or subtitles on all in-flight entertainment. More government agencies and hospitals turn to video technology to improve access for employees and patients. District U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, New York launches innovative website that includes ASL video presentations detailing legal services for the borough’s residents. Deaf residents in Big Spring, Texas begin educational campaign to reduce hang-ups on relay calls. Maryland passes law to require public places with televisions to turn on captions upon request.

(2011) CVAA begins to take effect. In DOJ landmark settlement, Wells Fargo Bank compensates deaf customers after numerous ADA complaints over discriminatory phone practices by refusing relay calls, and forcing them to call on TTY to leave a message that went unacknowledged. FCC overturns Anglers Order, requiring many religious and small nonprofit producers to start captioning or reapply for continued economic burdensome exemptions. TDI assisted American Association of the Deaf Blind (AADB) in filing comments with the FCC on establishing National Deaf Blind Equipment Distribution Program, and in filing petition for rulemaking with the FCC proposing communication facilitators to assist deaf blind callers using VRS by relaying the other party’s dialogue during the call. TDI filed comments with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) in its advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) to update ADA regulations on movie captioning and video description, opposing DOJ’s proposal for requiring access on 50% of the screens within five years, and advised on captioning standards for movie theaters. TDI also filed comments with DOJ in a different ANPRM to update ADA regulations on accessibility of websites under Titles II and III, encouraging captions on all videos. TDI filed comments with DOJ’s ADA ANPRM to update regulations on equipment and furniture, specifically those that provide electronic information technology such as access to information kiosks and other communication devices such as restaurant drive thrus, building intercom systems and other audio-centric communication systems. TDI also filed comments with DOJ in its ANPRM to ADA regulations on the Next Generation 9-1-1 Access to emergency services operated by state and local government entities, expanding communication options for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to include Internet based communication such as SMS, email and video calls.

(2012) Children’s Memorial Hospital in Houston conducts first FDA-approved study of stem cells used to treat hearing loss. Keith Nolan fights Pentagon policy barring deaf people from enlisting and fighting for our country. Revisions to ADA guidelines force hotels to raise number of accessible rooms. Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) services skyrocket as businesses and professionals seek to cut costs of providing reasonable accommodations. Montgomery County, Maryland installs TTY for its non-emergency 3-1-1 number for non-urgent county services and asks relay callers to use a separate number that will accept calls from relay centers located outside the county. The Federal District Court in Massachusetts holds that the ADA does apply to website only businesses such as Netflix. People who have monaural hearing loss are able to hear through a device called Soundbite that works through teeth. US Senate falls short by five votes in ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. An online White House petition seeking to officially recognize American Sign Language has collected more than 27,000 signatures in less than a month. Dr, William F. House, inventor of the cochlear implant, the first electronic device to restore a human sense dies.

(2013) Obama appoints Tom Wheeler as new FCC Chairman. AT&T and Sorenson settle with the FCC and agrees to pay $21.75 million and $15.75 million, respectively, for improper billing of disallowed and unverified relay calls. The FCC adopts comprehensive reforms to protect and strengthen video relay services to support innovation and competition, drive down ratepayer and provider costs, and eliminate incentives for waste, abuse and fraud. Young start up Miracom encounters FCC roadblock in releasing InnoCaption, a mobile app that uses real-time captioning instead of voice recognition technology to generate text on captioned phone calls. The US Department of Transportation granted 40 waivers to applicants seeking to obtain commercial drivers licenses that will allow them to drive trucks across state lines, citing statistics that deaf drivers are as safe as hearing drivers. A deaf web user sues eBay for not providing a secure sign-on procedure that deaf people can use without telephone verification protocols that are not compatible with relay services. US Court of Appeals sides with deaf medical student, Michael Argenyi, against Creighton University in his request to have CART services for his classes. TDI and other consumer groups are participating in meetings with industry and a few proceedings with the FCC to address one of the “big picture” issues facing telecom regulation: the evolution of the Public Switched Telephone Network (“PSTN”) from “legacy” time-division multiplexing (“TDM”) systems toward an Internet protocol (“IP”) based network. The transition from the traditional PSTN to IP has been a hot topic at the Commission and within the industry, as consumers increasingly “cut the cord” on landline copper networks and rely on mobile wireless or IP-enabled communications technologies running on broadband networks.