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United Nations Includes Disability Perspectives at Wireless Roundtable

"There are no best practices yet in using broadband wireless technologies when trying to reach people with disabilities during emergency situations...Broadband wireless is simply too new a field to say what works well all the time for people with disabilities."

by / December 18, 2007
At the United Nations Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies (G3ICT) Digital Cities Convention in December, discussions focused on accessibility for people with disabilities.

"Since the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities includes provisions for inclusive technology, we must involve the perspectives of people with disabilities at each and every opportunity," said Axel Leblois, executive director of the G3ICT initiative for inclusive information and communications technology and co-chair of the accessibility panel.

The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the largest cross-disability membership organization in the U.S., praised G3ICT's discussion of issues important to the disabled community.

"As new wireless technologies expand locally, the accessibility and usability needs of people with disabilities must be addressed," said AAPD's Senior Director for Technology and Telecommunications Policy, Jenifer Simpson. "Too often, people with disabilities are left out and left behind when local initiatives are undertaken, resulting in later costly add-ons and work-arounds. When there are emergencies, this becomes even more critical, or people with disabilities end up abandoned or worse," Simpson added.

AAPD is committed to ensuring that barriers to usability and availability in any technology should be removed for people with disabilities and that all technologies should incorporate accessibility and usability in design, development, production and dissemination, with the intention of making new technologies available to all persons regardless of disability.

"There are no best practices yet in using broadband wireless technologies when trying to reach people with disabilities during emergency situations," said Neil McDevitt, Program Director, Community Emergency Preparedness Information Network (CEPIN), a Department of Homeland Security project administered by Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (TDI). "Broadband wireless is simply too new a field to say what works well all the time for people with disabilities."

"Although we already have mandates for TTY (Text Telephone) and hearing aid access to wireline and wireless telephone services, we now encounter new barriers when IP (Internet Protocol) technologies are used," stated Karen Peltz Strauss, a policy consultant at Gallaudet University's Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Telecommunications Access. "It's important to remember the history of telecommunications inclusion for people who are deaf and hard of hearing."