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Blog Posts by Karen Peltz Strauss

White House Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

by Karen Peltz Strauss, Deputy Bureau Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
August 2, 2012 - 02:52 PM

Last week, I was honored to represent the Federal Communications Commission at the White House’s observation of the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) 22nd anniversary.  Kareem Dale, the Special Advisor to the President on Disabilities Issues, opened the event, and Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, gave closing remarks.  

Joining a panel of 4 other administration officials, I had the opportunity to speak on the many ways in which the Commission has successfully implemented the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), signed by President Obama in October 2010.  The CVAA requires access by people with disabilities to emerging Internet-based and digital communications and video programming technologies.  Like the ADA, it seeks to ensure that people with disabilities can be fully independent and productive members of our society.

My remarks at the event highlighted 4 areas of accomplishment by the Commission:

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Video Relay Service Reform

May 5, 2011 - 03:11 PM

For a decade, thousands of people with hearing and speech disabilities, and their hearing friends, colleagues and families, have come to rely on video relay service to communicate with each other.

VRS enables individuals who use American Sign Language to make and receive “telephone” calls through a sign language interpreter using a broadband connection that enables both video and voice communications. The interpreter voices what the ASL user signs and interprets into sign language what the hearing person responds in voice. VRS providers receive compensation from a fund set up by the FCC called the Interstate TRS Fund into which all common carriers and interconnected VoIP providers contribute via fees they collect from their users.

Although the VRS program has proven widely popular and has been a great success in improving the ability of individuals with hearing and speech disabilities to communicate, it has also been subject to costly, and often illegal, problems of fraud and abuse that have threatened its long-term viability. Over the past year, the Federal Communications Commission has undertaken extensive efforts to reform the VRS program to ensure that it is efficiently managed, that providers comply with the law, and that as a result it remains a fully viable service for its users. For example, the FCC released an order on April 6 (PDF) putting into place a number of rules to eliminate VRS fraud. In the coming months, the Commission also plans to propose other necessary rule changes – including the ways in which VRS providers are compensated – based on a fresh look at the fundamental structure of the VRS program that started with a Notice of Inquiry issued in June 2010.

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