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Section 255 Regulations Spur Development (1999 – 2000)

(1999) The FCC develops regulations covering Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, to ensure access to tele­communications equipment and services by consumers with disabilities where readily achievable, including voice mail systems and interactive menus used by small and large businesses. The Electronic and Information Tech­nology Access Advisory Committee of the US Access Board develops rulings on Section 508 of the Rehabili­tation Act as amended in 1998 mandating accessibility without undue burden. Section 508 requires Federal contracts for telecommunications equip­ment and services procurement to include accessibility for workers and the public seeking information and services from the government. President Clinton also signs the Work Incentive Improvement Act allowing persons with disabilities to retain Medicare benefits when they reenter the workforce. Maryland becomes the first state in the continental United States to implement the three-digit 7-1-1 TRS number, which led to an increase of 41% in calls initiated by voice users.

(2000) The FCC overhauls TRS rules, boosting quality standards, adds STS relay, and provides VRS funding. Public comments during forums for A New FCC for the 21st Century help the agency resolve telecommunications access issues.