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FCC Releases a Software Development Kit for the Accessibility Clearinghouse

by: Jamal Mazrui, Deputy Director, Accessibility and Innovation Initiative and Aaron Vimont, Accessibility Innovation Summer Intern

August 28, 2013

Created as part of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA), the FCC’s Accessibility Clearinghouse is designed to be a useful, reliable, and reusable resource for individuals seeking accessibility solutions to give them full access to our nation's communication revolution.  The Clearinghouse website includes a wide range of data, such as accessibility features of mobile phones and contact information for telecommunication service providers and equipment manufacturers.  In addition, an application programming interface (API) has been created along with these data sets to allow for free and easy access to all of the data provided through the Clearinghouse.

To complement the Clearinghouse API, the FCC has created a software development kit (SDK) to help improve ease of access and use of the API.  The SDK is written in the Python programming language due to its popularity and versatility.  The SDK can be found on the FCC’s GitHub page.  Both Python 3 and Python 2.7 versions of the SDK are available.  A demo of the SDK is also available.  The SDK increases the simplicity of using the Clearinghouse’s 15 separate API queries by providing a small set of Python classes and methods, which handle the creation of the URLs and running of the requests.  The Python classes will allow the user easy access to the API response data as well as the request URL which was used.

The data provided through the Clearinghouse API is designed to be used by other developers, potentially in conjunction with other data related to mobile phones or accessibility.  To illustrate this, the FCC has also created a web-based demonstration of combining the Clearinghouse data with other data around the web.  The demo is not available on a live site but can be downloaded from FCC’s GitHub page.  The demo was written in HTML5 and JavaScript and takes the user through a short series of steps to find a mobile phone that has the accessibility features of interest.  The URLs used in the demo were created by using the Clearinghouse SDK. 

The demo uses data from the Clearinghouse API in combination with mobile phone ratings from CNET.com and it utilizes two separate APIs to illustrate the power of combining data from across the web.  Other applications similar to the demo will be able to use the Clearinghouse data in innovative ways to provide consumers with up-to-date and reliable information related to accessible communication technologies.

The Clearinghouse SDK is an example of the FCC's commitment to open data and APIs, consistent with the Digital Government Strategy of the federal government.  By separating content from presentation, the value of Clearinghouse information is extended.  It can be used selectively in mashups that combine data from other sources.  It can be presented differently in views other than that of the Clearinghouse website.  Value is thereby tailored for particular constituencies – disability groups or industry segments – and for particular platforms – desktop computers or mobile devices.

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