New Program to Provide Blind, Deaf Individuals Access to 21st Century Communications Technologies
Federal Communications Commission
News Media Information 202 / 418-0500445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D. C. 20554
This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action.
See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).
For Immediate Release: News Media Contact:
April 6, 2011 Rosemary Kimball at (202) 418-0511
FCC ACTS TO ENSURE THAT DEAF-BLIND INDIVIDUALS HAVE ACCESS TO21st CENTURY COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGIES
Washington, D.C. Today, the Commission established a National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution
Program (NDBEDP) to enable low-income individuals who are deaf-blind to access 21st Century
communications services. The pilot program will help ensure that qualified individuals have access to the
Internet, and advanced communications, including interexchange services and advanced
telecommunications and information services.
This action implements a provision of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video
Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA). The CVAA allocated $10 million annually from the Interstate
Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund for this nationwide equipment distribution effort. The
Commission concluded that the best approach would be to establish a two-year pilot program, with the
option of extending this for a third year, so that the Commission can assess the most efficient and
effective method of administering the NDBEDP on a permanent basis. Under the NDBEDP pilot
program, the Commission will certify and provide funding to one entity in each state to distribute
equipment to low-income individuals who are deaf-blind.
The Commission will make the full amount of the authorized funding, $10 million, available for each year
of the pilot program. Of this amount, the Commission will set aside up to $500,000 per year for national
outreach efforts. Each state will initially receive a minimum initial funding allocation of $50,000, with
the balance of the available funds allocated in proportion to each state's population. Certified programs
will have to submit documentation to support claims for reimbursement for NDBEDP equipment and
related services, up to each state's funding allocation. Certified programs must submit reports on their
activities and expenses every six months, disclose potential conflicts of interest, and conduct annual
The Commission adopted the following rules and policies for the NDBEDP pilot program:
Certified Programs: Entities must apply for certification to receive funding support under the
NDBEDP pilot program within 60 days of the effective date of the rules. The Commission will
certify only one entity for each state.
Consumer Eligibility: "Individuals who are deaf-blind," as defined in the Helen Keller National
Center Act, are eligible to apply for equipment. Because of the unusually high medical and
disability-related costs incurred by these individuals, the Order sets a low-income eligibility
threshold of 400% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
Equipment: The Order permits distribution of specialized and off-the-shelf equipment, separately
or in combination, as long as it meets the needs of the deaf-blind individual and makes
communications services covered under the CVAA accessible. The reasonable costs of the
equipment distributed, warranties, maintenance, repairs, and refurbishing will be covered.
Related Services: The reasonable costs of state and local outreach efforts, individual assessments
of a deaf-blind person's communications equipment needs, equipment installation, and
individualized training of consumers on how to use the equipment will also be covered under the
Action by the Commission, April 4, 2011, by Report and Order (FCC 11-56). Chairman Genachowski,
and Commissioners Copps, McDowell, Clyburn and Baker. Separate Statement issued by Commissioner
- FCC -
CG Docket No. 10-210.
For further information, contact Karen Peltz Strauss at (202) 418-2388 or Rosaline Crawford at (202)
418-2075 of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau.
For more news and information about the FCC please visit www.fcc.gov