SSW Blog

Broadband Plan Propaganda – Good or Bad?

Posted on | November 4, 2009 | 2 Comments

As I hoped some of you had the chance to watch some webcasts or read some documents as provided by Broadband.gov, I trust that it would be worth our consuming and long tedious time to learn about what we had lately relating to the Broadband Plan or maybe we don’t have any such services in our areas. Of course, there are the “have-nots” vs. “haves”  but sometimes there is a blur toward  ” the wants” or ” not wants” .

At the last workshop, “Broadband Accessibility for People with Disabilities II: Barriers, Opportunities and Policy Recommendations” on October 20, 2009, I had spent some successive days to catch up by viewing this webcast in spite of difficulty reading poor quality of captioning and writing notes.  It took me about two weeks to grasp at what this workshop had summed up with all the presentations and questions. (i.e., half hour or hour per morning and afternoon on each day if time permits).

Thanks to my notes I had to figure out that everyone in the workshop had shared their presentations and comments in response to some questions. Because captioning did not make sense by showing up only one line very clear while another line being blurring, I had to read one line by one line in order to understand the whole concept.  I did not understand why the Commission (or FCC) did not post transcripts immediately after the workshop had been completed. I am not sure what happens to the transcripts.

Before I jump into this I would like to compliment some people for being there to speak out on behalf of our Deaf and hard of hearing communities including deaf blind and late deafened people.  They are as follows:

Of course there were some people at the workshop who deserved some compliments as well but I am concerned whether some of them were appropriate spokespeople for people with disabilities as though as one of them had pointed out that the “experts” should not speak not just because of their knowledge but they had been involved based on their employment. For example, a person is an educator specializing in the field of disabilities but she or he is not a person with disability.

There were some good information but some others may not be necessary for the Commission to be aware of as though unfortunately there may be a propaganda that the Commission may hear a broader range of views and opinions rather than facts and real life stories.

Some highlights I like to share with you are as follows:

  • Bookshare –  people with qualifying disability or print disabilities.  This bookshare is free for all schools, thanks to the Dept of Education grant about $32 million with 5 year cooperative agreement.
  • Unemployment rate is very higher.  According to the 2007 Disability status report published by Cornell University the employment of working age are 36.8% of people with disabilities, compared to 79.7% people without disabilities.
  • E911 indirect and direct calls –  by November 12th deaf people are required with 10 digit numbering to call indirectly by using relay service providers. For direct calls (this part is not yet implemented but maybe in near future) deaf people may be able to access directly to 7000 E-911 call centers across the country without relay service providers.
  • For interpreters, once emergency calls are made by deaf people they must be asked at the same time if request for an interpreter, and so the first responders such as police, fire and paramedics should arrange an interpreter before bringing the interpreter with them to arrive at the scene.
  • Regarding Bandwidth issue if using videophone or live video on TV, there are suggestions that deaf people would like to view an interpreter in one side of TV screen and watch CNN news on the other side (in similar to Picture-In-Picture). Or, ability to demonstrate physical injury to the doctor on TV screen.
  • Inadequate outreach and training for people with speech disabilities about the availability of relay services; lack of awareness among the relay agents to communicate with those such with speech difficulties and time-lag issues; and lack of equipments availability to offer those with affordability and accessibility with ease of their speech abilities.
  • There was a good argument about time frame issue for implementation of closed captioning to take over 50 years as it had been claimed to reach the 100% level by 2006 since 1970s. [In my personal opinion this was an understatement. It is believed strongly that the implementation almost did not reach up 100% level even today and it may be around less than 75%.]
  • The National Broadband plan should consider an strongly effective enforcement for accessibility on the content providers or web sites that should be mandated. As well there is a current legislative bill proposal, HR 3101 in the Congress.
  • Since there are 36 states with their limited or inadequate distribution programs, there should be all 50 states to offer the distribution programs. There should be necessarily a new legislation to focus on these distribution programs by including assistive technology, outreach and training programs.
  • There was a suggestion to expand funding for broadband access as well as telephone services to people with disabilities.
  • PDA is popular for people with blindness. Right now, PDA is no longer available on the market but blind people had applauded the APPLE for taking a further step to make iPhone accessible. iPhone is a new version of PDA.
  • There is an existing law to require the government for the Internet and web sites to comply with Section 508. There are lack of staffing, or funding, and inadequate timing for the 508 Compliance offices to enforce the local, state and federal governments to comply with the Section 508.  There will be a new ruling due by December 21, 2009 by Access Board.
  • There are suggestions for the National Broadband Plan to offer some incentives and invite private investors to develop the equipment without touch like voice activated, speech mobility or brain wave activity as examples.
  • The statistics had reported about 1.2 million Americans with deaf and blind population as those of this deaf blind disability there is 80% to use Broadband.  The big factor is lack of affordability as the equipment, Braille display and PC amount total about $20,000. The majority of deaf blind population are living on $600 to $800 per month from Social Security Administration.
  • Most equipments are antiquated in use right now by Deaf blind people but once the machine is not working anymore there is non-existing place or service for repairs.
  • There are suggestions that the Commission should consider to include communication facilitators to serve the deaf blind community that may access to VRS providers. As well, relay providers need further training and sensitivity on how to work with deaf blind community.  The majority of deaf blind people is low visual disability.  The funding should be extended to this such group to purchase the assistive technology such as equipments.
  • There are good points during the discussion about high cost of technology such as screen reader and Braille; PDF forms being inaccessible at most web sites; and the data collection to identify the evolution and changing habits by utilizing various technologies like CARTs, TTYs, and videophones. For example, TTY becomes obsolete and may be useless today. The National Broadband Plan should consider about creating real-time data collection and real-live consumers through the use of technologies. It was suggested that the Commission should use present data collection based on TTY users and VP users  over the past 15 years since TRS came in the picture.
  • Telerehabilitation reaches about 140 million people around the world including third world countries. A barrier is lack of affordability. People with serious health situations may be able to access to rehabilitation services via high-quality computer desktop, conferencing, teleportal as well as training videos, and use rehabilitation as a bridge for assessing physical therapy and personal health records. Also they would provide consultations. More info at the University of Pittsburgh, Rehab. Services & Tech.
  • Instead of building special equipments into the computers there is a suggestion to include accessible features or access tools in the cloud computing at the Internet similar to addons or plug-ins.  Check out some possibilities about web or cloud services.
  • There was an argument about the difference of video requiring higher bandwidth via cable or DSL with more than ten years as compared to High Definition TV requiring HDMI cables with less than two years.

As you can see the highlights above, I bet it is overwhelming as though the webcast had lasted more than 7 hours. I will provide some additional highlights in my blog for part two on this topic. Please feel free to share comments and be sure to visit the Broadband.gov for information. There will be a field hearing at Gallaudet University this coming Friday, November 6th.

Comments

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