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Blog Posts by Jamal Mazrui

The Accessible Technology Challenges Facing Millennials

by Jamal Mazrui , Director, FCC Accessibility and Innovation Initiative
May 6, 2015 - 03:13 PM

Last week, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced proposals to move the Commission forward on two important communications access issues for Americans with disabilities.  It is a primary objective of the Commission to strive toward better access to information and communication technology for people with disabilities.

To that end, the FCC recently cohosted a forum focused specifically on accessibility issues facing young adults with disabilities.  From this event, the Commission’s Accessibility and Innovation Initiative learned many lessons about the daily challenges facing this community.

The Community Forum on Accessible Information and Communication Technology was cohosted by the Washington Metro Disabled Students Collective and took place at the U.S. Access Board.  A panel of young adults with disabilities discussed their experiences regarding the accessibility of information and communication technologies. During the small group breakout sessions, students discussed the challenges they face. A representative from each group presented the top challenges discussed accompanied by proposed solutions.

A panel of young adults with disabilities shown discussing their experiences regarding the accessibility of information and communication technologies.

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FCC Accepting Nominations for Chairman’s Awards for Advancement in Accessibility; Deadline Is April 15

by Jamal Mazrui, Deputy Director, Accessibility and Innovation Initiative
March 21, 2014 - 03:11 PM

*The deadline for nominations for Chairman’s AAA has been extended from March 31 to April 15. This blog post has been edited to reflect the deadline change.

One of the most cherished missions of the FCC is helping to bridge the accessibility gap in communications technologies. Entrusted by Congress with various regulatory responsibilities intended to raise the baseline level of accessibility found in communication technologies and advanced services enabled by the
Internet, the FCC in recent years has developed additional non-regulatory approaches to buoy its efforts to achieve these goals. To that end, the Accessibility and Innovation (A&I) Initiative was created to promote collaborative problem-solving on
accessibility among academic, industry, consumer and government
sectors.  A signature project of the A&I Initiative is the Chairman's Awards for Advancement in Accessibility (Chairman's AAA) to recognize innovators for contributions to accessible technology.

The FCC is now accepting nominations for the third Chairman's AAA. The deadline for submissions is Tuesday, April 15.

AAA nominations may be for mainstream or assistive technology, a developed standard or best practice, a free offering or commercial product produced by an individual or organization, whether nonprofit, business or government, anywhere in the world.  It must have been introduced, or substantially upgraded, in the market between August 1, 2012 and December 31, 2013.  Self-nominations and nominations by others are welcome

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Mobile Accessibility and Employment of People with Disabilities

by Jamal Mazrui, Deputy Director, Accessibility and Innovation Initiative
October 31, 2013 - 02:35 PM

The FCC's Accessibility and Innovation Initiative is pleased to commemorate October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. 

In recent years and on a global scale, the spread of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices has been dramatic.  A driving force behind this has been the revolution in mobile apps.  Hundreds of thousands of apps have been developed for various mobile platforms, including Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Nokia, and Windows Phone. From a disability perspective, apps may be subdivided into the categories of accessible apps and assistive apps.

For the disability community, there are two vital kinds of apps: accessible and assistive. An accessible app is designed according to accessibility guidelines for user interfaces so that people with a range of physical or mental capabilities can operate the software successfully, such as people with visual, hearing, dexterity, or cognitive disabilities. An accessible app generally has a mainstream rather than disability-specific purpose.  It benefits a broad user base in the accomplishment of human tasks that are commonly pursued.

An assistive app, on the other hand, helps people with particular impairments surmount what might otherwise be experienced as limiting consequences of a disability, (e.g., identifying paper currency to a blind person, facilitating direct sign language communication for a deaf person, inputting text from dictation by someone with a dexterity impairment, or giving reminders to someone with a cognitive disability).  Naturally, an assistive app also has to be an accessible app to those who particularly benefit from it.

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Global Accessibility Awareness Day

by Jamal Mazrui, Deputy Director, Accessibility and Innovation Initiative
May 9, 2013 - 03:19 PM

The FCC's Accessibility and Innovation Initiative is pleased to commemorate Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) today.  Global Accessibility Awareness Day is a community-driven effort dedicated to raising the profile and heightening awareness of digital accessibility to the broadest audience possible.

Over the years, Congress has designated the FCC as the federal agency responsible for implementing various laws intended to make communication technologies more accessible to people with disabilities.  This post highlights resources toward available on  We will also be tweeting messages with the hashtag #GAAD.

The FCC's Disability Rights Office performs most of our work in this area, and our AccessInfo service distributes email announcements about FCC news on disability-access issues.  Information on how to subscribe can be found here:

In addition, the FCC's Accessibility Clearinghouse is an online database of information about accessible technology solutions.  

Below you will find links to 25 Consumer Guides that we have prepared on disability-access issues.  We hope you find this information useful:

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The FCC’s Accessibility and Innovation Initiative: Background and Recent Work

by Jamal Mazrui, Deputy Director, Accessibility and Innovation Initiative
February 25, 2013 - 01:57 PM

Chairman Genachowski launched the Accessibility and Innovation (A&I) Initiative in July 2010, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Risks of Emerging Technology

As we all know, technology is evolving at an amazing pace, changing what we do, and how we do it, in almost every sphere of life.  Mostly, this means exciting progress, since new tasks can be done that were not possible before, or traditional tasks can be done with less time and cost.

Unfortunately, however, history has shown that access to new technology often lags behind for people with disabilities.  Those of us with a disability are not deliberately excluded from the benefits of new technology.  Rather, accessibility is generally not on the radar screen when inventors are racing to create new products ahead of their competitors.

An ironic result of this dynamic is that people with disabilities can be more isolated from their peers if technological advancements do not consider their needs.  For example, I personally experienced an inadvertent, major setback from technological change in the 1990s when office computers quickly switched from the text-based interface of DOS to the graphical user interface of Windows, for which there were no viable screen readers at the time.

Potential for Equalizing Opportunities

A different result is possible because most contemporary technologies have software at their core.  Software is not fixed and inflexible, but malleable and adaptable.  It can be made to do almost anything that the human mind can conceive.  That includes being responsive to particular needs and abilities, supporting alternative means of input or output, thereby increasing their usability for everyone.

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FCC Holds 2-Day Workshop to Advance Accessible Technology Development

by Jamal Mazrui , Deputy Director, Accessibility and Innovation Initiative
August 30, 2012 - 11:36 AM

To address the challenge of providing accessible solutions that often lag behind rapid technology advances, the FCC is hosting a free workshop for developers Sept. 6-7 at its headquarters in Washington. The two-day event – “Developing with Accessibility” (DevAcc) – is designed to spur increased and ongoing collaboration on accessibility among developers for various technology platforms.

DevAcc is the part of Chairman Genachowski’s ongoing Accessibility and Innovation Initiative launched in July 2010 in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The A&I Initiative promotes collaboration among stakeholders from government, industry, and consumer sectors so that people with disabilities can reap the full benefit of broadband communication technologies.  Put simply, the Initiative is open government applied to accessibility.

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Connecting America: Removing Barriers

by Jamal Mazrui, Deputy Director, Accessibility and Innovation Initiative
January 1, 2011 - 12:25 PM

Strengthening Accessibility through Global Coordination

by Jamal Mazrui, Deputy Director, Accessibility and Innovation Initiative
November 24, 2010 - 12:53 PM


In 2006, the United Nations agreed on the language of a treaty known as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). The treaty is going through a process of signing and ratification among many countries. In 2009, President Obama signed it in honor of the 19th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A related endeavor is called G3ict, a public-private partnership encouraging policies to ensure that information and communication technologies (ICT) are accessible to people with disabilities. Such ICT can equalize opportunities for independent living, social inclusion, higher education, and gainful employment — empowering people everywhere, and especially in developing countries.

As part of a collaboration with G3ict, George Washington University hosted a policy forum last week. Leaders in ICT policy from around the world convened with partners from the U.S. government, industry, and consumer groups. Karen Peltz Strauss, Elizabeth Lyle, and I were able to participate on behalf of the FCC. This is an exciting time period in which unprecedented coordination is occurring among ICT-related proceedings to set accessibility standards and policy, such as those related to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. We all shared perspectives, identified problems, and brainstormed solutions.

The ideas and connections were invigorating. Let me highlight some common themes as follows:

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Next Steps on Nonvisual Cell Phone Access

September 24, 2010 - 05:06 PM


Let me encourage anyone interested to submit comments to the Commission regarding accessibility of cell and other phone technologies to people who are blind, deaf-blind, or have low vision, in furtherance of Section 255 of the Communications Act. Such comments are due by the end of Thursday, September 30, 2010. Initial comments have already been filed, and currently, a reply comment period is underway.

The public notice is entitled "Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Seek Comment on Accessible Mobile Phone Options for People who are Blind, Deaf-blind, or Have Low Vision." It may be downloaded as a Microsoft Word document from the following web address:

Comments may be filed using the web form of the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), located at:

A web form on that page allows one to upload a word processor document, e.g., in Microsoft Word format. Comments may also be typed or pasted into a simpler web form called ECFS Express, located at:

At the prompt for the docket, input:

CG Docket No. 10-145

Comments may be of any length and address any relevant issue. They will affect how the Commission handles government responsibilities in this area.

(Cross-posted on Blogband)

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