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FCC Seeks Comment On Tentative Findings For 2014 CVAA Biennial Report

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Released: August 28, 2014
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PUBLIC NOTICE

Federal Communications Commission

News Media Information 202 / 418-0500

445 12th St., S.W.

Internet: https://www.fcc.gov

Washington, D.C. 20554

TTY: 1-888-835-5322

DA 14-1255

Released: August 28, 2014

CONSUMER AND GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS BUREAU SEEKS COMMENT ON ITS

TENTATIVE FINDINGS ABOUT THE ACCESSIBILITY OF COMMUNICATIONS

TECHNOLOGIES FOR THE 2014 BIENNIAL REPORT UNDER THE

TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY COMMUNICATIONS AND VIDEO ACCESSIBILITY ACT

Pleading Cycle Established

CG Docket No. 10-213

Comment Date: September 11, 2014

I.

Introduction

1.

This Public Notice (Notice) seeks comment on tentative findings for the 2014 Biennial

Report (Report) to Congress on the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act

of 2010 (CVAA). Public comment will assist the Commission in assessing the following: (1) the level of

compliance with the CVAA’s mandates requiring telecommunications and advanced communications

services and equipment to be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities; (2) the effect of

related recordkeeping and enforcement obligations; and (3) the extent to which accessibility barriers still

exist with respect to new communications technologies. The Consumer and Governmental Affairs

Bureau (CGB) of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) will submit the final

Report to Congress by October 8, 2014.

2.

The purpose of the CVAA,1 which amended the Communications Act of 1934 (Act), is

“to help ensure that individuals with disabilities are able to fully utilize communications services and

equipment and better access video programming.”2 In enacting the CVAA, Congress concluded that

people with disabilities often have not shared in the benefits of this rapid technological advancement.3

Congress directed the Commission to evaluate the CVAA’s progress in addressing this inequity in a

report to Congress every two years.4 The Commission delivered the first biennial report to Congress on

October 5, 2012 (2012 CVAA Biennial Report).5

1 Pub. L. No. 111-260, 124 Stat. 2751 (2010) (as codified in various sections of 47 U.S.C.); Pub. L. 111-265, 124

Stat. 2795 (2010) (making technical corrections to the CVAA).

2 S. Rep. No. 111-386 at 1 (Senate Report); H.R. Rep. No. 111-563 at 19 (House Report) (2010) (noting that the

communications marketplace had undergone a “fundamental transformation” since Congress adopted Section 255 of

the Act in 1996. See 47 U.S.C. § 255 (requiring access to telecommunications services and equipment).

3 Senate Report at 1-2; House Report at 19.

4 See Section 717(b)(1) of the Act, as added by the CVAA, codified at 47 U.S.C. § 618(b)(1). Biennial

reports must be submitted to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate, and

the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the House of Representatives. Id. See also Senate Report at 9;

House Report at 27 (the report should “assess[] the level of compliance with the requirements of [the

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3.

Following passage of the CVAA on October 8, 2010, the Commission immediately began

implementing this landmark legislation. In its 2012 CVAA Biennial Report to Congress, the Commission

reported that it had met every one of the CVAA’s rigorous rulemaking deadlines, having already released

five reports and orders adopting rules to implement various provisions of the CVAA.6 Since the

submission of the 2012 CVAA Biennial Report, the Commission has continued to work with consumer,

industry, and government stakeholders to ensure effective and timely implementation of the CVAA. As a

result, the Commission has since released five additional reports and orders to implement the CVAA,7 in

compliance with all CVAA deadlines, where feasible.8 Resources throughout the Commission’s bureaus

CVAA], as well as other matters related to the effectiveness of the Commission’s complaint resolution

process”).

5 See Implementation of Sections 716 and 717 of the Communications Act of 1934, as Enacted by the Twenty-First

Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, CG Docket No. 10-213, Biennial Report to Congress

as Required by the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, DA 12-1602, 27

FCC Rcd 12204 (CGB 2012) (2012 CVAA Biennial Report), available at

https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-12-1602A1.pdf.

6 2012 CVAA Biennial Report, 27 FCC Rcd at 12205-6, ¶ 2.

7 Since the submission of the 2012 CVAA Biennial Report, the Commission has released the following reports and

orders adopting implementing regulations:

Accessible Emergency Information, and Apparatus Requirements for Emergency Information and Video

Description: Implementation of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of

2010, MB Docket Nos. 11-43 and 12-107, Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,

FCC 13-45, 28 FCC Rcd 4871 (2013), available at https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-13-

45A1.pdf) (adopting rules requiring that emergency information provided in video programming be made

accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired and that certain apparatus be capable of

delivering video description and emergency information).

Implementation of Section 718 of the Communications Act of 1934, as Enacted by the Twenty-First Century

Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, CG Docket No. 10-213, WT Docket No. 96-198, CG Docket

No. 10-145, Report and Order, FCC 13-57, 28 FCC Rcd 5957 (2013), available at

https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-13-57A1.pdf (implementing Section 718 and part of Section

716 of the Act to ensure that people with disabilities have access to emerging and innovative advanced

communications technologies).

Accessibility of User Interfaces, and Video Programming Guides and Menus, MB Docket Nos. 12-108 and 12-107,

Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, FCC 13-138, 28 FCC Rcd 17330 (2013), available at

https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-13-138A1.pdf (adopting rules requiring accessibility of user

interfaces and video programming guides and menus).

Closed Captioning of Internet Protocol-Delivered Video Programming; Implementation of the Twenty-First Century

Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010; Closed Captioning of Internet Protocol-Delivered Video

Clips,

MB Docket No. 11-154, Second Order on Reconsideration and Second Further Notice of Proposed

Rulemaking, FCC 14-97, 29 FCC Rcd ___ (rel. Jul. 14, 2014), available at

https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-14-97A1.pdf (extending Internet protocol closed captioning

requirements to certain excerpts of video programming that has been shown on television with closed captioning).

Facilitating the Deployment of Text-to-911 and Other Next Generation 911 Applications; Framework for Next

Generation 911 Deployment, PS Docket Nos. 11-153 and 10-255, Second Report and Order and Third Further

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, FCC 14-118, 29 FCC Rcd ___ (rel. Aug. 13, 2014), available at

https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-14-118A1.pdf (requiring providers of interconnected text

messaging applications to be capable of supporting text-to-911 service by December 31, 2014, and thereafter to

implement text-to-911 by June 30, 2015 or within six months from the date of a Public Safety Answering Point

(PSAP) request, whichever is later, for that PSAP).

8 The CVAA required the Commission to prescribe regulations to implement Sections 204 and 205 of the CVAA by

October 9, 2013, a deadline that occurred during a shutdown of the Federal government due to a lapse in

appropriations, when the Commission could not conduct normal business operations. See Pub. L. No. 111-260, §§

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and offices have contributed to this comprehensive effort, reflecting the Commission’s ongoing

commitment to ensuring communications access for millions of Americans with disabilities.

II.

Background and Scope of the Report

4.

The Report that will be submitted to Congress must include the following elements:

(A)

An assessment of the level of compliance with Sections 255 (accessibility of

telecommunications services and equipment), 716 (accessibility of advanced

communications services and equipment), and 718 (accessibility of Internet browsers built

into mobile phones).

(B)

An evaluation of the extent to which any accessibility barriers still exist with respect to new

communications technologies.

(C)

The number and nature of complaints received pursuant to Section 717(a) (recordkeeping

and enforcement obligations of service providers and equipment manufacturers that are

subject to Sections 255, 716, and 718).

(D)

A description of the actions taken to resolve such complaints, including forfeiture penalties

assessed.

(E)

The length of time that was taken by the Commission to resolve each such complaint.

(F)

The number, status, nature, and outcome of any actions for mandamus filed and of any

appeals filed.

(G)

An assessment of the effect of the recordkeeping and enforcement requirements of Section

717 on the development and deployment of new communications technologies.9

5.

Section 255. Section 255 of the Act requires providers of telecommunications service

and manufacturers of telecommunications equipment or customer premises equipment (CPE) to ensure

that such services and equipment are accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, if readily

achievable.10 When these requirements are not readily achievable, covered entities must ensure that their

services and equipment are compatible with existing peripheral devices or specialized CPE commonly

used by individuals with disabilities to achieve access, if readily achievable.11 The Commission’s Section

255 rules cover, among other things, telephone calls, call waiting, speed dialing, call forwarding,

computer-provided directory assistance, call monitoring, caller identification, call tracing, and repeat

dialing.12 Equipment covered under Section 255 includes, but is not limited to, telecommunications

equipment and CPE, such as wireline, cordless, and wireless telephones, fax machines, and answering

machines.13 In addition, the rules implementing Section 255 cover voice mail and interactive voice

204(b), 205(b). The Commission adopted a report and order with final rules to implement these sections within two

weeks after the government re-opened.

9 See 47 U.S.C. § 618(b)(1).

10 47 U.S.C. §§ 255(b), (c). See also 47 C.F.R. Part 6 and Part 7. “Readily achievable” is defined as “easily

accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.” 42 U.S.C. § 12181(9).

11 47 U.S.C. § 255(d).

12 See Implementation of Sections 255 and 251(a)(2) of the Communications Act of 1934, as Enacted by the

Telecommunications Act of 1996: Access to Telecommunications Service, Telecommunications Equipment and

Customer Premises Equipment by Persons with Disabilities, Report and Order and Further Notice of Inquiry, FCC

99-181, 16 FCC Rcd 6417, 6449, ¶ 77 (1999) (Section 255 Order). See also 47 C.F.R. Part 6.

13 The Act defines telecommunications equipment as “equipment, other than customer premises equipment, used by

a carrier to provide telecommunications services, and includes software integral to such equipment (including

upgrades).” 47 U.S.C. § 153(52). It defines “customer premises equipment” as “equipment employed on the

premises of a person (other than a carrier) to originate, route or terminate telecommunications.” 47 U.S.C. §

153(16).

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response systems (phone systems that provide callers with menus of choices).14 In 2007, the Commission

adopted rules extending Section 255’s accessibility obligations to interconnected voice over Internet

protocol (VoIP) service providers and interconnected VoIP equipment manufacturers.15

6.

Sections 716 and 717. Section 716 of the Act requires providers of advanced

communications services and manufacturers of equipment used for advanced communications services to

ensure that their services and equipment are accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities,

unless doing so is not achievable (defined as “with reasonable effort or expense”).16 “Advanced

communications services” include: (1) interconnected VoIP service; (2) non-interconnected VoIP

service; (3) electronic messaging service; and (4) interoperable video conferencing service.17 In contrast

to interconnected VoIP services, which enable people to make and receive calls to and from the public

switched telephone network (PSTN), non-interconnected VoIP services include services that enable real-

time voice communications either to or from the PSTN (but not both) or which neither begin nor end on

the PSTN at all.18 Electronic messaging services include services such as e-mail, short message service

(SMS) text messaging, and instant messaging, which enable real-time or near real-time text messages

between individuals over communications networks.19 Interoperable video conferencing services provide

real-time video communications, including audio, to enable users to share information.20

7.

The accessibility requirements for section 716 may be satisfied by: (1) building

accessibility into the service or equipment;21 or (2) using third-party applications, peripheral devices,

software, hardware, or CPE that is available to consumers at nominal cost and that individuals with

disabilities can access.22 When ensuring accessibility through either of those options is not achievable,

covered entities must ensure that their services and equipment are compatible with existing peripheral

devices or specialized CPE commonly used by individuals with disabilities to achieve access, unless that

is not achievable.23

8.

On October 7, 2011, the Commission released a report and order adopting rules to

implement Sections 716 and 717 of the Act.24 These rules directed covered manufacturers and service

14 47 C.F.R. Part 7. See also FCC Section 255 Consumer Guide available at https://www.fcc.gov/guides/disabled-

persons-telecommunications-access-section-255.

15 Implementation of Sections 255 and 251(a)(2) of the Communications Act of 1934, as Enacted by the

Telecommunications Act of 1996: Access to Telecommunications Service, Telecommunications Equipment and

Customer Premises Equipment by Persons with Disabilities; Telecommunications Relay Services and Speech-to-

Speech Services for Individuals with Hearing and Speech Disabilities, Report and Order, FCC 07-110, 22 FCC Rcd

11275 (2007) (Section 255 VoIP Order), available at https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-07-

110A1.pdf.

16 47 U.S.C. §§ 617(a)(1), (b)(1), (g).

17 47 U.S.C. § 153(1). See also 47 C.F.R. § 14.10(c). Section 716 of the Act does not apply to services or

equipment, including interconnected VoIP services and equipment, which were subject to Section 255 on October 7,

2010. 47 U.S.C. § 617(f). Those services and equipment remain subject to the requirements of Section 255. Id.

18 See 47 U.S.C. §§ 153(25), 153(36); 47 C.F.R. § 9.3.

19 47 U.S.C. § 153(19).

20 47 U.S.C. § 153(27).

21 47 U.S.C. §§ 617(a)(2)(A), (b)(2)(A).

22 47 U.S.C. §§ 617(a)(2)(B), (b)(2)(B).

23 47 U.S.C. §§ 617(c).

24 See Implementation of Sections 716 and 717 of the Communications Act of 1934, as Enacted by the

Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010; Amendments to the

Commission’s Rules Implementing Sections 255 and 251(a)(2) of the Communications Act of 1934, as

Enacted by the Telecommunications Act of 1996; and In the Matter of Accessible Mobile Phone Options for

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providers to begin taking accessibility into account in the design of their products and services as of

January 30, 2012.25 Since January 30, 2013, these entities also have had to comply with Section 717’s

recordkeeping requirements pertaining to the accessibility of their products and services.26 Beginning

October 8, 2013, covered entities have had to fully implement Section 716 by making the products and

services they introduce in the marketplace (or that are substantially upgraded) accessible to and usable by

individuals with disabilities, or compatible with assistive technology, unless not achievable, in accordance

with the Commission’s rules.27 Finally, the associated complaint procedures established pursuant to

Section 717 of the Act became available to consumers on October 8, 2013.28

9.

Section 718. Section 718 requires mobile phone service providers and manufacturers to

make Internet browsers built into mobile phones accessible to and usable by people who are blind or have

a visual impairment, unless doing so is not achievable.29 This requirement may be satisfied with or

without the use of third-party applications, peripheral devices, software, hardware, or CPE that is

available to consumers at nominal cost and that individuals with disabilities can access.30 On April 26,

2013, the Commission adopted rules implementing Section 718, which have required mobile phones with

built-in Internet browsers manufactured on or after October 8, 2013, to comply with the Commission’s

accessibility requirements.31

10.

Scope of the Report. The evaluation of compliance with Sections 255, 716, and 718 of the

Act in this Report is, of necessity, circumscribed by the time periods during which each of the rules

described above were in effect. For this Report, the Commission provides an assessment of industry

compliance with the accessibility requirements of Section 255 since the submission of the 2012 CVAA

Biennial Report and compliance with Sections 716 and 718 with respect to covered equipment and

services that have been introduced into the marketplace or substantially upgraded on or after October 8,

2013.32 This Report also addresses accessibility barriers that still exist with respect to new

communications technologies. Finally, this Report considers the effect of the accessibility-related

recordkeeping and enforcement requirements under Section 717 of the Act on the development and

deployment of new communications technologies since these requirements became effective.

11.

Pursuant to Section 255 of the Act, since 1999 and 2007, respectively, the Commission

has had in place complaint procedures to ensure that telecommunications and interconnected VoIP

People who are Blind, Deaf-Blind, or Have Low Vision, CG Docket Nos. 10-213 and 10-145, WT Docket

No. 96-198, Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, FCC 11-151, 26 FCC Rcd

14557 (2011) (ACS Report and Order and ACS FNPRM). The rules adopted in the ACS Report and Order

are codified in 47 C.F.R. Part 14.

25 ACS Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 14602, ¶ 108. The rules became effective 30 days after their publication

in the Federal Register on December 30, 2011. Id., 26 FCC Rcd at 14696, ¶ 328. See also 76 Fed. Reg. 82240

(Dec. 30, 2011).

26 Specifically, covered entities must keep records of their efforts to implement Sections 255, 716, and 718,

including information about their efforts to consult with people with disabilities, descriptions of the accessibility

features of their products and services, and information about the compatibility of these products and services with

peripheral devices or specialized CPE commonly used by people with disabilities to achieve access. 47 U.S.C. §

618(a)(5)(A).

27 ACS Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 14602-3, ¶ 110.

28 47 C.F.R. §§ 14.30(c), 14.32-14.37.

29 47 U.S.C. § 619(a).

30 47 U.S.C. § 619(b).

31 CVAA, § 104(b); 47 C.F.R. §§ 14.60-61.

32 47 U.S.C. §§ 255, 617, 619; 47 C.F.R. Part 6, Part 7, Part 14.

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services and equipment are accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.33 Pursuant to Section

717 of the Act, the Commission established new procedures for complaints alleging violations of Sections

255, 716, or 718 of the Act.34 The new complaint procedures became effective October 8, 2013.35 As a

result, for this Report, CGB will provide information about complaints alleging violations of Section 255

filed under the prior procedures for the period of January 1, 2012, through October 7, 2013, and about

complaints alleging violations of Sections 255, 716, and 718 filed under the new procedures for the period

of October 8, 2013, through December 31, 2013.36

III.

Comment Sought on Tentative Findings

12.

Section 717(b)(2) of the Act requires the Commission to seek public comment on its

tentative findings prior to submission of each biennial report to Congress.37 To help inform the

Commission’s tentative findings, the Commission issued a public notice on June 17, 2014, inviting

comments related to the development of this Report.38

13.

We now seek comment on whether the Commission’s tentative findings contained in the

Attachment to this Notice accurately represent the current state of communications technologies

accessibility. To the extent commenters believe the tentative findings do not provide an accurate

representation, we seek comment on why they do not and how they should be revised to do so. We also

seek comment on the extent to which the actions taken by industry, as described in the Attachment, have

resulted in increased accessibility and, where relevant, usability and compatibility, of telecommunications

and advanced communications services and equipment since delivery of the 2012 CVAA Biennial Report

to Congress. Do these products and services offer the same range of low-end and high-end features,

functions, and prices that are available to the general public? What other kinds of information would help

the Commission to conduct these assessments, as required by the CVAA, for the next biennial report to

Congress to be submitted by October 8, 2016? In order to facilitate review of all comments, we request

that commenters identify the specific findings on which they are providing comment.

IV.

Procedural Matters

14.

Ex Parte Rules. The proceeding this Notice initiates shall be treated as a “permit-but-

disclose” proceeding in accordance with the Commission’s ex parte rules.39 Persons making ex parte

presentations must file a copy of any written presentation or a memorandum summarizing any oral

presentation within two business days after the presentation (unless a different deadline applicable to the

33 47 U.S.C. § 255; 47 C.F.R. Part 6 and Part 7. See also Section 255 Order, 16 FCC Rcd at 6466-6487, ¶¶ 109-166;

Section 255 VoIP Order, 22 FCC Rcd at 11289, ¶ 25.

34 47 C.F.R. §§ 14.32-14.37.

35 47 C.F.R. § 14.30(c).

36 47 U.S.C. § 618(b)(2). As noted in the 2012 CVAA Biennial Report, we believe it is most appropriate for these

periodic reports to review complaints for the time period 1/1/20XX - 12/31/20XX+1.

We generally find that this

approach

allows the Commission adequate time to solicit public comment on the issues that it must address in such

reports, consistent with Section 717(b)(2), and best achieves the CVAA’s objectives. See 2012 CVAA Biennial

Report, 26 FCC Rcd at 12212, ¶ 16. Limiting the review in this Report to complaints received as of December 31,

2013, allowed the Commission to compile the relevant information and to seek comment on our tentative findings.

37 47 U.S.C. § 618(b)(2).

38 Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Seeks Comment on the Accessibility of Communications

Technologies for the 2014 Biennial Report Required by the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video

Accessibility Act, CG Docket No. 10-213, Public Notice, DA 14-828, 29 FCC Rcd __ (CGB rel. Jun. 17, 2014)

(2014 CVAA Assessment PN) available at https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-14-828A1.pdf.

39 47 C.F.R. §§ 1.1200 et seq.

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Sunshine period applies). Persons making oral ex parte presentations are reminded that memoranda

summarizing the presentation must (1) list all persons attending or otherwise participating in the meeting

at which the ex parte presentation was made, and (2) summarize all data presented and arguments made

during the presentation. If the presentation consisted in whole or in part of the presentation of data or

arguments already reflected in the presenter’s written comments, memoranda or other filings in the

proceeding, the presenter may provide citations to such data or arguments in his or her prior comments,

memoranda, or other filings (specifying the relevant page and/or paragraph numbers where such data or

arguments can be found) in lieu of summarizing them in the memorandum. Documents shown or given

to Commission staff during ex parte meetings are deemed to be written ex parte presentations and must

be filed consistent with rule 1.1206(b).40 In proceedings governed by rule 1.49(f) or for which the

Commission has made available a method of electronic filing, written ex parte presentations and

memoranda summarizing oral ex parte presentations, and all attachments thereto, must be filed through

the electronic comment filing system available for that proceeding, and must be filed in their native

format (e.g., .doc, .xml, .ppt, searchable .pdf).41 Participants in this proceeding should familiarize

themselves with the Commission’s ex parte rules.

15.

Filing Requirements. Interested parties may file comments on or before the date

indicated on the first page of this document. Comments may be filed using the Commission’s Electronic

Comment Filing System (ECFS).42 All comments should refer to CG Docket No. 10-213. Please title

comments responsive to this Notice as “PN Comments – CVAA Report Tentative Findings.” Further, we

strongly encourage parties to develop responses to this Notice that adhere to the organization and

structure of the questions in this Notice.

Electronic Filers: Comments may be filed electronically using the Internet by accessing the

ECFS: http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs2/.

Paper Filers: Parties who choose to file by paper must file an original and one copy of each

filing. If more than one docket or rulemaking number appears in the caption of this

proceeding, filers must submit two additional copies for each additional docket or rulemaking

number.

o

Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery, by commercial overnight courier, or

by first-class or overnight U.S. Postal Service mail. All filings must be addressed to the

Commission’s Secretary, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.

o

All hand-delivered or messenger-delivered paper filings for the Commission’s Secretary

must be delivered to FCC Headquarters at 445 12th Street, SW, Room TW-A325,

Washington, DC 20554. The filing hours are 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. All hand deliveries

must be held together with rubber bands or fasteners. Any envelopes and boxes must be

disposed of before entering the building.

o

Commercial overnight mail (other than U.S. Postal Service Express Mail and Priority

Mail) must be sent to 9300 East Hampton Drive, Capitol Heights, MD 20743.

o

U.S. Postal Service first-class, Express, and Priority mail must be addressed to 445 12th

Street, SW, Washington DC 20554.

40 47 C.F.R. § 1.1206(b).

41 47 C.F.R. § 1.49(f).

42 See Electronic Filing of Documents in Rulemaking Proceedings, 63 Fed. Reg. 24121 (1998).

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16.

People with Disabilities. To request materials in accessible formats for people with

disabilities (Braille, large print, electronic files, audio format), send an e-mail to fcc504@fcc.gov or call

the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 (voice), 202-418-0432 (TTY).

Individuals with disabilities may request assistance from the Disability Rights Office to file comments in

the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System by sending an e-mail to dro@fcc.gov.

17.

Additional Information. For further information about this Public Notice, please contact

Rosaline Crawford at 202-418-2075 or by e-mail to Rosaline.Crawford@fcc.gov, Disability Rights

Office, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, Federal Communications Commission.

- FCC -

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ATTACHMENT

TENTATIVE FINDINGS FOR

2014 BIENNIAL REPORT TO CONGRESS

AS REQUIRED BY THE

TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY COMMUNICATIONS

AND VIDEO ACCESSIBILITY ACT OF 2010 (CVAA)

I.

Compliance with Sections 255, 716, and 718

1.

Section 717(b)(1)(A) of the Act requires the Commission to provide an assessment of the

level of compliance with Sections 255, 716, and 718 of the Act in this Report.1 To achieve this, in the

2014 CVAA Assessment PN, the Commission sought comment on the following matters with respect to

products and services made available to the public since the release of the 2012 CVAA Biennial Report on

October 5, 2012:

The level of compliance with the Commission’s accessibility rules predating the CVAA,

requiring telecommunications and interconnected VoIP services and equipment to be

accessible to people with disabilities;

The extent to which obligations under Section 716 have impacted the accessibility of

advanced communications services (e.g., non-interconnected VoIP and electronic

messaging services) and the devices used to access these services;

The extent to which obligations under Section 718 have impacted the accessibility of

Internet browsers built into mobile phones for individuals who are blind or visually

impaired;

Information related to the efforts of manufacturers and service providers to consult with

individuals with disabilities in their market research, product design, testing, pilot

demonstrations, and product trials;

The extent to which service providers and equipment manufacturers have complied with

their obligations to ensure access by people with disabilities to information and

documentation related to their products and services;

The extent to which covered entities that have direct contact with the public have

conducted training of their personnel on the accessibility of their products and services;

and

Any other issues relevant to assessing the level of compliance with Sections 255, 716,

and 718.2

A.

Comments Received

2.

Accessibility. In response to the 2014 CVAA Assessment PN, the Commission received

comments from a wide range of stakeholders about the accessibility of telecommunications and advanced

communications services, as well as the equipment used for these services. Consumer Groups

representing individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing generally acknowledge “improvement in

accessibility under Section 255,” but add their belief that they “have a long way to go before deaf and

hard of hearing customers can easily and affordably purchase accessible phones.”3 Additionally, while

1 47 U.S.C. § 618(b)(1)(A).

2 2014 CVAA Assessment PN, 29 FCC Rcd at ___, ¶¶ 7- 11.

3 Comments of the National Association of the Deaf; Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc.;

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network; Association of Late-Deafened Adults, Inc.; Hearing Loss

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Consumer Groups express enthusiasm about some new smartphone features, such as Apple’s iPhone that

connects directly with some brands of hearing aids, they raise concerns that “those types of proprietary

solutions offer limited and expensive options that do not suit everyone’s needs.”4 Consumer Groups also

raise concerns about accessing captioned telephone services (CTS)5 over wireless systems and ask the

Commission to resolve such problems prior to transitioning consumers away from the wireline

infrastructure.6 Consumer Groups do, however, emphasize their support for high definition (HD) voice-

enabled phones and better noise-cancelling technology, noting that “more natural sounding calls go a long

way in making it possible . . . to make calls with or without assistive technology.”7

3.

Consumer Groups also reiterate concerns they expressed in 2012 regarding the lack of

interoperable video conferencing services. Specifically, they report that mainstream video conferencing

services remain incompatible with TRS, making employment-related video conference calls inaccessible

to deaf and hard of hearing individuals.8 They explain further that off-the-shelf video conferencing

systems are not interoperable among themselves or with videophones available through video relay

service (VRS) providers.9 Consumer Groups also recommend enhancing video conferencing systems so

that, under poor network conditions, a deaf or hard of hearing person can optimize picture quality, or

Association of America; California Coalition of Agencies Serving the Deaf and Hard of Hearing; Cerebral Palsy and

Deaf Organization; and Telecommunication-RERC (Technology Access Program at Gallaudet University and Trace

Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) (collectively referred to herein as Consumer Groups) at 3.

4 Consumer Groups Comments at 2. Consumer Groups point to a new feature for Apple’s iPhone, which offers a

direct connection to some brands of hearing aids, and the fact that some hearing aid compatible handsets work better

with some hearing aid brands than with others, as examples of the problems inherent in this type of proprietary

solution. Id.

5 CTS is a type of telecommunications relay service (TRS) that permits people who can speak, but who have a

hearing loss and have difficulty hearing over the telephone, to speak directly to another party on a telephone call and

to use a “captioned telephone” or computer software to simultaneously listen to the other party and read captions of

what that party is saying. Generally, TRS enables an individual who is deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind, or who has

a speech disability to engage in communication by wire or radio with one or more individuals in a manner that is

functionally equivalent to the ability of a hearing individual who does not have a speech disability to communicate

using voice communication services by wire or radio. 47 U.S.C. § 225(a)(3). For more information about TRS, see

the FCC consumer guide available at https://www.fcc.gov/guides/telecommunications-relay-service-trs.

6 Consumer Groups Comments at 9. In particular, Consumer Groups note that CTS often cannot operate without a

wireline infrastructure, and that service personnel do not appear to be trained in strategies that permit CTS to

function on a purely wireless infrastructure. Id. In comments submitted in response to the Commission’s

proceeding on the Open Internet, Consumer Groups allege that “standalone analog and IP captioned telephones do

not work reliably on telephone services that are provided via wireless base stations.” See Comments of

Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (TDI), National Association of the Deaf (NAD),

Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consumer Advocacy Network

(DHHCAN), Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Telecommunications Access (RERC-TA), Clayton H.

Lewis, Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet, GN Docket No. 14-28 (Jul. 18, 2014) at 12, available at

http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7521707584.

7 Consumer Groups Comments at 3.

8 Id. at 4-5. See also 2012 CVAA Biennial Report, 27 FCC Rcd at 12206, ¶ 29.

9 Consumer Groups Comments at 4-5. Issues related to the interoperability of video conferencing services and

equipment are the subject of a pending Commission proceeding. See ACS FNPRM, 26 FCC Rcd at 14684-87, ¶¶

301-305. VRS is defined in the Commission’s rules as “a telecommunications relay service that allows people with

hearing or speech disabilities who use sign language to communicate with voice telephone users through video

equipment. The video link allows the [communication assistant] to view and interpret the party’s signed

conversation and relay the conversation back and forth with a voice caller.” 47 C.F.R. § 64.601(a)(40).

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frames-per-second, over audio quality.10 Consumer Groups further note the need for accessible alerting

systems, such as flashing lights or vibration, for advanced communications services, to prevent

consumers from missing incoming video calls or other messages.11 In addition, Consumer Groups allege

a general lack of access to advanced communications service components in video games and gaming

systems.12 In particular, they cite the inability of deaf and hard of hearing participants to communicate in

multi-player gaming systems.13

4.

The American Council of the Blind (ACB) similarly acknowledges that some mobile

device platforms have made strides in accessibility, but notes that accessibility gaps continue to exist for

individuals who are blind or visually impaired. For example, ACB acknowledges that the Samsung

Galaxy S5 on the Android platform is more accessible than its predecessors, but insists that earlier

versions of these devices, which are still available on the market, as well as other devices on the Android

operating system, remain inaccessible.14 ACB also notes that Microsoft’s Windows Phone, while now

offering a built-in screen reader, lacks “many features which would enable it to be usable on a daily

basis” for people who are blind or visually impaired; in this regard, they emphasize the need for

accessibility to “span the entire device.”15 On a positive note, ACB applauds certain advances for

individuals who are blind, such as accessible communication applications that provide two-way, push-to-

talk, walkie-talkie voice communication, thereby simulating instant messaging in an accessible format for

the blind user.16 In addition, ACB notes, in general, that “[w]eb accessibility has improved over the last

few years.”17

5.

The American Association of the Deaf-Blind (AADB) states that “the majority of

smartphones, tablets and other similar devices are not accessible to the Deaf-Blind.”18 AADB notes that,

when using tablets to connect to the Internet or make calls, there is no alert to notify users when the call is

10 Consumer Groups Comments at 6.

11 Id.

12 Id. Consumer Groups raised this issue as well in 2012. See 2012 CVAA Biennial Report, 27 FCC Rcd at 12221-

22, ¶¶ 44-45 (advocating for inclusion of relay services to make online gaming voice communication accessible to

deaf and hard of hearing gamers). Note, however, that the Commission granted class waivers of the advanced

communications services accessibility rules until October 8, 2015, for gaming consoles, services and software. See

Implementation of Sections 716 and 717 of the Communications Act of 1934, as Enacted by the Twenty-First

Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010; Petitions for Class Waivers of Sections 716 and 717

of the Communications Act and Part 14 of the Commission’s Rules Requiring Access to Advanced Communications

Services (ACS) and Equipment by People with Disabilities, CG Docket 10-213, Order, DA 12-1645, 27 FCC Rcd

12970, 12982-92, ¶¶ 23-41 (CGB 2012) (ACS Waiver Order), available at

https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-12-1645A1.pdf.

13 Consumer Groups Comments at 6.

14 ACB Comments at 2. ACB advocates for all devices to be accessible, not just a select few. Id. ACB reports that

it believes that the relationship between the carrier and the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) “is often the

reason why accessibility is either obscured or broken on various handsets,” and suggests that accessibility can be

achieved through “greater communication of expectations from the carrier to the OEM.” Id.

15 Id.

16 ACB points to HeyTell and Zello as examples of these types of applications. Id.

17 Id. at 3.

18 Comments of the American Association of the Deaf-Blind (AADB Comments) at 2.

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received.19 Further, AADB reports that “most mobile phones and tablets have limited accessibility

features or none at all for screen readers using Braille.”20 Even when a device is accessible, AADB

claims that “the software and apps made for these devices are not always accessible,” either because they

are only accessible visually or only accessible audibly.21 For example, according to AADB, “[i]nstant

messaging (IM) on mobile phones is not accessible to screen readers.”22 A further concern is that, when

there are upgrades or updates to a mobile device’s core software or apps, it sometimes causes the device

or app to become less accessible or totally inaccessible for the user who is deaf-blind.23 For example,

AADB notes that sometimes such updates cause the equipment or software to stop working with the

assistive technology, such as a Braille display or screen reader, that is used by people who are deaf-

blind.24 This is particularly frustrating, they say, because an update cannot be rolled back, so the product

becomes completely useless until fixes are available, “which again require sighted assistance and

significant time delays.”25

6.

In addition to the above feedback received from disability organizations, 29 individuals –

all of whom are either blind or have low-vision, or work with this community – submitted comments in

response to the 2014 CVAA Assessment PN. Many of these commenters emphasize the progress that has

been made over the past several years on the accessibility of mobile devices, particularly the Apple

iPhone, for people with vision loss.26 Two individuals spoke favorably of the iPhone’s compliance with

Section 718 of the Act, requiring Internet browsers built into mobile phones to be accessible to

individuals who are blind or visually impaired.27 However, while commenters generally express

appreciation for the iPhone’s accessibility, some offer suggestions for areas in which accessibility on

these devices can be improved.28 In addition, several commenters express concerns that wireless phones

19 AADB Comments at 5. ACB agrees and notes that individuals who are deaf-blind are unable to receive

notifications that they have received a text or notification on a device, without constantly checking the device itself.

Id. at 1.

20 Id. at 5. AADB also notes that it can be quite challenging to connect assistive technology, such as Braille displays

and notetakers, through Bluetooth to mobile devices. Id. at 4.

21 Id. at 2.

22 Id. at 5.

23 Id. at 3.

24 Id.

25 Id. AADB suggests that its members would benefit from requirements mandating mobile phones to be fully

accessible to deaf-blind individuals. Id. at 4. Sections 255 and 716 do, in fact, require the telecommunications and

advanced communications services functions on mobile phones to be accessible to all persons with disabilities,

though flexibility is provided in the manner in which this can be achieved, as noted above. See Notice at ¶¶ 6-8,

supra. Similarly, Section 718 requires Internet browsers built into mobile phones to be accessible to individuals

who are blind or visually impaired, also as noted above. See Notice at ¶ 9, supra

26 See, e.g., Comments of Fred M. Scott; Comments of Jake Joehl; Comments of Tristen and Turlock Breitenfeldt;

Comments of Jeanette Schmoyer; Comments of Karen Palau; Comments of Anne Jarry; Comments of Sandy

Spalletta.

27 See Comments of Ronald Flormata at 2 (“Needless to say, I can easily use my iPhone to . . . browse the web. . ..”);

Comments of Katie Frederick (“When it comes to accessing the Internet/web, I find this process straightforward

when using any of my technologies,” which include an Apple iPhone.).

28 See, e.g., Comments of Al Posner (allow user to set a default magnification level); Comments of Russ Zochowski

(provide ability to use Siri to add or edit contacts or delete messages); Comments of Sandy Spalletta (provide ability

to locate answer button, phone and keyboard buttons); Comments of Kevin Lee (offer ability to decrease speed of

Siri voice).

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available to low-income consumers made available by providers who participate in the Commission’s

Lifeline program are not very accessible, 29 and that some providers still offer no accessible phones at

all.30

7.

For the most part, industry stakeholders submitted comments that emphasize their

significant efforts to incorporate access into their products and services, along with the consequent results

of such efforts. For example, CTIA – the Wireless Association (CTIA) points to wireless providers’ wide

range of devices with “low-end and high-end features, functions, and prices that include accessible

features for people with disabilities.”31 It stresses that wireless equipment manufacturers are continuing

to improve smartphone accessibility features and create solutions to meet the needs of “people with

varying abilities.”32

CTIA identifies several feature phones that provide accessibility solutions,

particularly for users who are blind or visually impaired.33 CTIA goes on to explain that the move to a

platform-based approach by manufacturers is enabling accessibility features to be more consistently

available, because accessibility features in the operating system can be used by low- and high-end

devices, and new features can be distributed through software updates.34 For example, CTIA discusses

features offered on smartphone platforms for users who are blind or have low vision,35 who are deaf or

29 As discussed below, see Attachment at ¶ 39, infra, approximately 15% of all informal complaints and RDAs

received during the reporting period involved complaints about inaccessible wireless handsets received in

conjunction with subscriptions for telephone services under the Commission’s Lifeline program. Since 1985, the

Lifeline program, which is supported by the Universal Service Fund, has provided a discount on phone service for

qualifying low-income consumers to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity and security that telephone

service brings. In 2005, Lifeline discounts were made available to qualifying low-income consumers on pre-paid

wireless service plans, in addition to traditional landline service. See “Lifeline Program for Low-Income

Consumers” at https://www.fcc.gov/lifeline (last viewed on Aug. 7, 2014).

30 See, e.g., Comments of Andrea Roth (“Assurance Wireless phones that are provided for low-income individuals,

are not very accessible. It would be better if they at least had voice-dialing capability.”); Comments of Percy

Chavez (telephones from prepaid wireless provider “are not accessible at all”). A number of the commenters noted

concerns that are outside the Commission’s jurisdiction. For example, some commenters expressed concern

regarding the inaccessibility of websites (see, e.g., Comments of Al Posner; Comments of Larry McMillan;

Comments of Kevin Lee; Comments of Ronald Kaplan); inaccessibility of software applications (see, e.g.,

Comments of Rhonda Staats; Comments of Karen Palau); and, generally, the overutilization of touch screen and

touch pad input devices on household appliances and other devices (see, e.g., Comments of Al Posner; Comments of

Ron Kolesar).

31 CTIA Comments at 8.

32 Id. at 9.

33 Id. at 15-17. CTIA mentions Pantech’s Breeze flip phones that utilize universal design principles, and Sprint’s

Kyocera Kona, Verve, and Duraplus phones that offer a variety of accessibility features. Id. at 15-16. In addition,

CTIA notes that new offerings that focus specifically on the delivery of wireless services to people with disabilities,

such as GreatCall, which specializes in products and services designed for seniors, as well as Odin Mobile and

Project RAY, which market services and offer accessible phones to individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

Id. at 16-17.

34 Id. at 9-10.

35 Id. at 10-12. CTIA cites, as examples, Apple’s VoiceOver screen reader and platform support for more than 40

refreshable Braille displays; Google’s Android operating system with a built-in TalkBack screen reader that also

offers Explore by Touch (audible output activated by touching the screen) and BrailleBack (to help make supported

refreshable Braille displays via Bluetooth); Blackberry 10’s operating system that includes screen reader software,

BlackBerry Magnify, and voice control; Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8.1 that offers the Narrator screen reader and

hands-free operation by voice control. Id. at 10-11. CTIA also reports that manufacturers, such as Nokia, include

built-in accessibility features in their products, including voice controls, adjustable fonts, text-to-speech, Nuance

Talks, screen readers, and message readers. Id. at 11. CTIA also mentions HTC’s adjustable font sizes for e-mail

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hard of hearing,36 who have dexterity impairments,37 and who have cognitive disabilities.38 In addition,

CTIA mentions personal assistant programs that facilitate mobile device operations for people of varying

abilities.39

8.

CTIA also describes the development of services by providers and applications by third

parties that can enhance accessibility.40 It notes that service providers’ mobile accessibility applications

and services provide a variety of means to ensure that consumers can find and use innovative accessibility

solutions.41 It also cites manufacturers’ increased willingness to provide resources to enable third-party

application developers to ensure compatibility with built-in accessibility features.42 Finally, CTIA notes

that third-party developers have taken the initiative to release imaginative applications to enhance

accessibility for people with disabilities.43

9.

Both CTIA and the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) describe the efforts

of some of their member companies to make text-to-911 available.44 TIA goes on to opine that the

CVAA has resulted and will continue to result in increased accessibility across information and

communications technology products and services, though it might be difficult to quantify at this time.45

TIA further believes that the software platform approach for inclusion of accessibility features leverages

the principle of universal design, allowing new features to be added to existing equipment, to provide a

more seamless user experience, and greatly simplify upgrades.46 With respect to the state of accessibility

and webpages; Samsung’s Galaxy 5’s Dark Screen option; LG G2’s built-in screen magnifier; and Motorola Moto

X’s combined screen reader with a Braille display. Id. at 11-12. Additional accessibility features for individuals

who are blind or visually impaired are offered by service providers, such as Sprint’s “Accessible Now” voice

guidance software to help set up and activate its LG F3, Flex, and G2 phones. Id. at 12.

36 Id. at 12-13. CTIA reports that, in addition to hearing aid compatibility and volume control, many wireless

devices include visual and vibrating alerts for calls, texts, e-mails, and other notifications. Id. at 12. In addition,

smartphones with front-facing cameras enable video communication by American Sign Language users. Id. at 13.

According to CTIA, Motorola devices offer CrystalTalk (a noise-masking algorithm); and Blackberry devices offer

a Natural Sound feature (to hear nuances and variations in tone). Id. at 13.

37 Id. at 13-14. For example, CTIA mentions “dexterity features, such as ‘no slip’ coatings, external stylus support,

external keyboard support, predictive text (auto-correct), voice commands, and Bluetooth connectivity.” Id. at 13.

According to CTIA, HTC offers smartphones with haptic feedback; Apple offers AssistiveTouch to suit an

individual’s physical needs and to support third-party assistive technology, such as Bluetooth-enabled switch

hardware; and Google’s Android offers Touch and Hold Delay and TalkBack speech features. Id. at 13-14.

38 Id. at 14. Features that are useful for individuals with cognitive disabilities include photo contact lists, voice

dialing and operations, and options to eliminate screen time-outs. Id. CTIA mentions that Pantech’s Breeze phones

have simplified display options and Samsung offers an “easy” mode on its Android-based smartphones. Id.

39 Id. at 14. For example, CTIA points to Apple’s Siri program that responds to voice commands and Microsoft’s

Windows Phone Cortana application that can be accessed by voice or by text. Id. at 14-15.

40 Id. at 18-24.

41 Id. at 18-20.

42 Id. at 20-21, 23-24.

43 Id. at 21-23. In its comments, CTIA mentions applications that improve the accessibility of mobile devices, as

well as applications that assist with productivity, such as apps that identify currency, colors, and images. Id.

44 Id. at 24-25 (pointing to efforts by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless to carry text-to-911

transmissions); TIA Comments at 8-9 (noting its work with standards groups to enable text-to-911).

45 TIA Comments at 4.

46 Id. at 5-6.

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for “non-mobile” services, TIA urges the Commission to act on TIA’s 2012 petition for a rulemaking to

reference the TIA conversational gain standard in the Commission’s Part 68 rules that set hearing aid

compatibility volume control requirements.47 TIA also describes its efforts to work on hearing aid

compatibility standards for the wireless space.48

10.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) reports that it has been assisting its

members to comply with the new accessibility rules through alerts, webinars, and compliance manuals.49

CEA states that its members are engaging in “strong efforts to comply” with the CVAA, including

determining which equipment is subject to the advanced communications services accessibility rules,

ensuring that their units and teams understand the rules, consulting people with disabilities on

accessibility solutions, modifying internal processes to perform the tasks needed for compliance, and

keeping compliant record systems.50 Finally, CEA notes with approval the Commission’s advanced

communications services accessibility rules, which it says, recognize the need to balance accessibility and

preserve innovation.51

11.

Microsoft, Inc. (Microsoft) states that innovation in accessibility solutions has been

enhanced by the Commission’s avoidance of overly prescriptive regulations, and by a reasonable

compliance deadline schedule that has provided industry time to research break-through solutions.52

Microsoft points to developments it has advanced, such as hands-free interaction modes, eye-tracking

technology, and narration of visual environments, as examples of these types of innovations.53 Microsoft

states that it faces unique challenges, in that its portfolio of devices and services spans such a wide range

of accessibility issues, and runs on multiple combinations of platforms, browsers, apps, and services, but

that it is able to meet these accessibility challenges through a significant company-wide emphasis on

accessibility.54 With respect to advanced communications services, Microsoft reports that it has been able

to provide consumers with disabilities a choice of using built-in or third-party accessibility solutions.55

For example, consumers with visual impairments can choose to use Narrator, a built-in screen reader, or

Window-Eyes, a third-party screen reader that Microsoft makes available at no charge.56 Microsoft

47 Id. at 7-8. See also Telecommunications Industry Association, Access to Telecommunications Equipment and

Services by Persons with Disabilities, RM-11682, Petition for Rulemaking (filed Oct. 25, 2012) (TIA Petition).

48 TIA Comments at 8.

49 Comments of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA Comments) at 4.

50 CEA Comments at 5. CEA describes implementation of the accessibility requirements as “resource intensive and

time-consuming.” Id. at 4-5. Asserting, without more, that “smaller entities have encountered challenges in

achieving compliance,” CEA recommends an exemption for small entities, “which will facilitate the entry and

continued participation of small entrepreneurial businesses in providing innovative [advanced communications

services and] equipment.” Id. at 5.

51 Id. at 3. CEA also expresses appreciation for the Commission’s grant of limited waivers. See ACS Waiver Order,

27 FCC Rcd 12970 (granting class waivers of advanced communications services accessibility rules until October 8,

2015, for Internet protocol-enabled television sets, Internet-enabled digital video players, cable set-top boxes, and

gaming consoles, services and software). See also TIA Comments at 9-10 (expressing appreciation for the

Commission’s careful consideration of past waiver requests relating to the advanced communications services

accessibility requirements).

52 Comments of Microsoft, Inc. (Microsoft Comments) at 1.

53 Microsoft Comments at 2-3.

54 Id. at 5-7.

55 Id. at 4.

56 Id.

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applauds the Commission’s efforts to foster industry innovation and flexibility, encourages the

Commission to continue its Chairman’s Awards for the Advancement of Accessibility and its

Accessibility & Innovation Initiative Speaker Series, and urges the Commission to continue to focus on

outcomes and encourage innovation, relying on technology standards only as a safe harbor “where

compliance with the standard will be evidence of complying with the CVAA regulations, while still

allowing other methods of achieving the regulatory goals.”57

12.

Inclusion of people with disabilities in product and service design and development.58

The 2014 CVAA Assessment PN sought comment on the extent to which covered entities have included

people with disabilities in their efforts to conduct market research, product design, testing, pilot

demonstrations, and product trials.59 In response, Consumer Groups allege that “re-engineering happens

too often without thought to [the] accessibility needs of people who are deaf or hard of hearing.”60 As an

example, they point to reports that Apple is considering elimination of the headphone jack on future

models, a feature that enables a connection for neckloops or other accessibility coupling devices that are

used to enhance an individual’s ability to hear, as illustrative of this problem.61 AADB similarly raises

concerns about consumers with disabilities having insufficient opportunity to provide input into research

and development of new communications technologies to meet the needs of their community.62 In

particular, AADB calls for a Deaf-Blind Telecommunications Technology Summit to address the

challenges facing deaf-blind people using telecommunications equipment and services.63

13.

Various industry associations report that their members are, in fact, taking steps to

consult with people with disabilities and the accessibility community. For example, CTIA reports that,

since 2012, its member companies have gained feedback on wireless accessibility issues from disability-

related organizations,64 and that its Accessibility Outreach Initiative, which has held seven meetings since

2013, assists its members to “gain a broader understanding of the accessibility community’s priorities.”65

CTIA adds that service providers “have developed programs to consider accessibility throughout all

57 Id. at 7-8.

58 See 47 C.F.R. §§ 6.7(b)(3), 7.7(b)(3). Beginning January 30, 2013, covered entities must keep records about their

efforts to consult with people with disabilities. See 47 U.S.C. § 618(a)(5)(A); 47 C.F.R. § 14.31(a)(1).

59 2014 CVAA Assessment PN, 29 FCC Rcd at ___, ¶¶ 7, 9, 10.

60 Consumer Groups Comments at 3.

61 Id. at n. 3, citing “Possible Design Change for the iPhone 6 – Eliminating the Headphone Jack – Has Some Apple

Fans Fuming,” NY Daily News, http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/iphone-6-require-new-headphones-apple-

fans-fuming-article-1.1826371 (Jun. 12, 2014).

62 AADB Comments at 4. Along these lines, AADB raises concerns about the transparency of the National Deaf-

Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP), a matter outside the scope of this Report, but nevertheless of

importance to the Commission. AADB expresses interest in having greater access to trends, patterns and statistics

of programs certified under the NDBEDP, to better identify research needed for the development of communications

devices for the deaf-blind community. Id.

63 Id. at 5.

64 CTIA Comments at 28. For example, CTIA member companies have met with the American Foundation for the

Blind, Hearing Loss Association of America, the Telecommunications Equipment Distribution Program

Association, the National Association of the Deaf, the World Institute on Disability, and Telecommunications for

the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. Id. at 28.

65 Id. at 28.

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stages of product and service design and deployment.”66 It also points to efforts of its member companies

to engage consumer representatives in an on-going dialogue about accessibility, including initiatives to

incorporate accessibility into regular company practices and procedures.67 For example, CTIA reports

that manufacturers have worked to implement the American Foundation for the Blind’s guidelines for

small screen displays.68 CTIA also notes that wireless service providers have undertaken initiatives to

incorporate accessibility into their regular practices and procedures, such as through advisory panels and

online resources.69

14.

TIA states that it views the inclusion of people with disabilities to be a crucial part of the

process of ensuring that accessibility is incorporated into the design during new product cycles, and that

its members continue to liaise with the disability community to ensure inclusive design.70 TIA asserts

that consultation with individuals with disabilities on research and development is taking place at both the

company and industry association levels.71

15.

Microsoft reports that it places company-wide emphasis on accessibility and engages

regularly with the community on disability issues.72 For example, Microsoft states that it holds an annual

summit with Microsoft employees and disability rights advocates.73 In addition, Microsoft explains that it

hires individuals with disabilities as usability testers in studies to obtain feedback on the usability of its

products.74

16.

Information, documentation, and training. The 2014 CVAA Assessment PN sought

comment on access by people with disabilities to information and documentation related to covered

products and services, as well as the extent to which covered entities that have direct contact with the

public have conducted training of their personnel on the accessibility of their products and services.75

These requirements are designed to ensure that telecommunications and advanced communications

services, as well as Internet browsers built into mobile phones, are usable by individuals with

disabilities.76 Consumer Groups express concern that gaps remain, both with respect to industry efforts to

disseminate information about accessible products and services, and with respect to providing staff

66 Id. at 8. CTIA mentions, specifically, the establishment of a Corporate Accessible Technology Office by AT&T,

and Verizon’s online training courses for new employees about accessibility requirements. Id. at 8-9.

67 Id. at 30-32.

68 Id. at 12.

69 Id. at 31-32.

70 TIA Comments at 4-5.

71 Id. at 6. TIA mentions, for example, that it participated in sessions at the 2014 M-Enabling Summit in Virginia

and the 2014 conference of the Hearing Loss Association of America. Id.

72 Microsoft Comments at 7.

73 Id. at 6.

74 Id.

75 2014 CVAA Assessment PN, 29 FCC Rcd at ___, ¶¶ 8, 11.

76 A product or service is “usable” if individuals with disabilities have access to the full functionality and

documentation for the product or service, including instructions, product or service information (including

accessible feature information), documentation and technical support functionally equivalent to that provided to

individuals without disabilities. See 47 C.F.R. §§ 6.3(l), 7.3(l), 14.21(c). See also 47 C.F.R. §§ 6.11, 7.11, 14.20(d),

14.60(b)(4) (prescribing usability obligations related to information, documentation, and training for covered

entities).

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training on accessibility. Specifically, Consumer Groups assert that “[t]here continues to be a lack of

readily available information in retail settings to help customers figure out which phone works best for

them,” and that retail employees are often unable to assist because they are unfamiliar with accessibility

features, such as hearing aid compatible phones.77 AADB agrees that “[e]ducation and outreach about

accessibility on all mobile and desktop communications is much needed and critical.”78 It also requests

easy-to-use, step-by-step instructions to enable deaf-blind individuals to navigate communication apps.79

17.

Industry commenters underscore their efforts to disseminate information to consumers

with disabilities. For example, CTIA stresses that its member companies provide accessibility

information through advertisements, product packaging, user guides, and their websites, as well as

through customer service representatives.80 It states that the industry and individual providers have

increased awareness of accessible services and products to an extent that goes beyond the requirements of

the CVAA, including regular attendance at conferences and meetings, along with maintenance of the

AccessWireless.org website, where consumers can search for wireless handsets based on accessibility

features.81

18.

With respect to staff training, Microsoft reports that it has established a “disability

Answer Desk” that consumers can contact by phone, e-mail, or chat to receive assistance from staff

“specifically trained in assistive technologies and assisting persons with disabilities.”82

19.

Other issues. Consumers point to several aspects of service plans offered by providers

that they claim result in reduced accessibility for users with disabilities. Consumer Groups, whose

members rely on data-based rather than voice-based communication, express serious concern about “the

growing trend among wireless carriers where they are no longer offering unlimited data plans and are

instead metering, throttling and sometimes capping their data plans.”83 Consumer Groups claim that

because some modes of communication, particularly video conferencing, use significant amounts of data,

such restrictions limit functional equivalency for deaf and hard of hearing users and result in their paying

more for expensive overage charges and costly data plans.84 Moreover, Consumer Groups point to news

reports causing growing apprehension that one or more major carriers may begin throttling data speeds

for customers with unlimited data plans, or may begin capping consumers’ data usage.85 Their concerns

are that throttling data speed would render video communication impossible and data caps could result in

77 Consumer Groups Comments at 2.

78 AADB Comments at 5.

79 Id. at 3.

80 CTIA Comments at 17-18.

81 Id. at 26-30. CTIA partners with the Mobile Manufacturers Forum to make the information collected through the

Global Accessibility Reporting Initiative (GARI) available to consumers through AccessWireless.org website.

CTIA Comments at 27. See also TIA Comments at 8 (asserting that GARI continues to operate successfully) and 11

(stating that GARI is being used effectively by wireless manufacturers and is also leveraged effectively by the

Commission’s Accessibility Clearinghouse).

82 Microsoft Comments at 6.

83 Consumer Groups Comments at 7-8.

84 Id. at 7.

85 Id. at 8, citing “FCC Questions Verizon Plan to Manage Data Speeds for Some Customers,” Wall Street Journal,

http://online.wsj.com/articles/fcc-questions-verizon-plan-to-manage-data-speeds-for-some-costumers-1406756051

(Jul. 30, 2014).

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sudden blockages to the network; either action, they say, could render a person who is deaf or hard of

hearing unable to make calls, including calls for emergency services.86

20.

By contrast, industry comments emphasize the wide selection of service plans tailored to

fit the needs of users with disabilities. For example, CTIA points to providers’ service plans that “meet

the needs of people with disabilities,” and offer “a variety of post- and pre-paid plans to accommodate

differing abilities to pay.”87 It states that wireless service providers continue to “offer and expand their

array of services that benefit the accessibility community, including by introducing voice, text, data and

service plans that greatly benefit people with disabilities and seniors.”88

B.

Tentative Findings on Compliance with Sections 255, 716, and 718

21.

Section 255. Based on the record provided in response to the 2014 CVAA Assessment

PN, the Commission tentatively finds that there is a greater selection of accessible telecommunications

devices available to people with disabilities now than were available at the time that the Commission

prepared its 2012 CVAA Biennial Report. Specifically, the 2012 CVAA Biennial Report stated that

“feature phones continue to offer only limited accessibility for consumers who are blind or visually

impaired.”89 Information provided to the Commission in preparation for this Report indicates that several

feature phones now provide accessibility solutions for individuals who are blind or visually impaired and

that the need for accessibility has given rise to new offerings and models specifically designed to meet

accessibility needs.90 In addition, it appears that a range of accessibility solutions have been included in

many smartphones to meet the needs of individuals who are blind or have low vision, who are deaf or

hard of hearing, who have dexterity impairments, and who have cognitive disabilities.91 As such, we

tentatively find that there has been an increase in the availability of telecommunications equipment with

varying degrees of functionality and features, and offered at differing price points, that are accessible to

individuals with disabilities during the period covered by this Report.

22.

Section 716. Although less than a year has passed since implementation of Section 716

went into full effect, we tentatively find that industry has made efforts to comply with the CVAA’s

requirements to ensure that advanced communications services and the equipment used for these services

are accessible to people with disabilities. We base this tentative finding on the extensive submissions

86 Consumer Groups Comments at 8.

87 CTIA Comments at 8.

88 Id. at 7. CTIA points to Sprint’s “Relay Data Plan,” AT&T’s “Text Accessibility Plan” and “Senior Plan 200,”

Verizon’s “Nationwide Messaging Plan” and “Nationwide 65 Plus Plan,” U.S. Cellular’s messaging options and

messaging-only plans, and providers’ HD Voice services as examples of services that benefit people with disabilities

and seniors. Id. at 7-8.

89 2012 CVAA Biennial Report, 27 FCC Rcd at 12219, ¶ 39.

90 See Attachment at ¶ 7, n.33, supra (CTIA reporting that Pantech’s Breeze and Sprint’s Kyocera Kona, Verve, and

Duraplus feature phones have accessibility features, and that GreatCall, Odin Mobile, and Project RAY market

services and offer accessible phones to seniors and individuals who are blind or visually impaired).

91 See Attachment at ¶ 7 (CTIA stating that wireless providers offer a wide range of devices with “low-end and high-

end features, functions, and prices that include accessible features for people with disabilities”), nn.35-38, supra

(CTIA discussing features that make the telecommunications services functions on smartphones more accessible to

individuals with disabilities). See also Attachment at ¶ 2, supra (Consumer Groups noting “improvement in

accessibility under Section 255” and support for HD voice-enabled phones and better noise-cancelling technology);

¶ 4, supra (ACB acknowledging that some mobile platforms now provide greater accessibility, including voice

communication applications, that are accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired).

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illustrating a range of accessible devices, from feature phones to smartphones, for individuals with

varying types of disabilities,92 along with reports by trade associations detailing industry compliance

efforts.93 In addition, we note that, although consumers were able to request assistance and file informal

complaints with the Commission with respect to alleged violations of Sections 716 from October 8,

2013,94 through the close of the reporting period on December 31, 2013, consumers submitted no such

requests for assistance or informal complaints to the Commission.95 The lack of filings during this three-

month period may be due to many reasons, none of which are evidenced in the record.96 As such, we

tentatively find that the lack of such requests for assistance or informal complaints is not conclusive

evidence of compliance, nor can it be used to infer compliance with Section 716.

23.

Section 718. While only a few commenters spoke directly to the accessibility of Internet

browsers built into mobile phones in response to the 2014 CVAA Assessment PN, based on the record

before us, we tentatively conclude that industry has made efforts to comply with Section 718’s

requirements to ensure the accessibility of such web browsers for people who are blind or visually

impaired. We base this tentative finding on CTIA’s reports of a wide range of wireless devices and

smartphone platforms that provide “low-end and high-end features, functions, and prices that include

accessible features for people with disabilities” generally,97 and more specifically for users who are blind

or visually impaired. In particular, CTIA describes smartphones that support refreshable Braille displays

and include screen readers, voice control, text-to-speech, adjustable font sizes, and magnification.98

Given that smartphones can be used to access the Internet, it seems logical to conclude that the

accessibility features provided on these devices not only enable people to make calls, but also enable

access to the Internet browsers built into these smartphones. This tentative finding is supported by

comments that confirm the accessibility of Internet browsers on Apple iPhones,99 as well as ACB’s

statement that “[w]eb accessibility has improved over the last few years.”100

Our tentative conclusion that

industry is effectively providing access to Internet browsers on mobile phones is further supported by the

92 See, e.g., Attachment at ¶ 7, n. 33, supra (CTIA discussing accessible feature phones and new entities that market

services and offer accessible phones to seniors and individuals who are blind or visually impaired); ¶ 7, nn.35-38,

supra (CTIA reporting on features that make the advanced communications services functions on smartphones more

accessible to individuals with disabilities).

93 See, e.g., Attachment at ¶ 10, supra (CEA reporting that its members are actively engaged in efforts to comply

with the Commission’s advanced communications services accessibility rules); ¶ 11, supra (Microsoft noting that it

provides consumers with disabilities a choice of built-in or third-party accessibility solutions).

94 See Attachment at ¶ 35, infra.

95 See Attachment at ¶ 38, infra.

96 For example, there is no evidence in the record as to what covered services and equipment were deployed during

that three-month period. Further, consumers may not be aware of the accessibility requirements mandated by

Section 716 of the Act and the Commission’s rules, or of possible violations of those requirements, or of their right

to request assistance from or to file complaints with the Commission with respect to the inaccessibility of advanced

communications services and equipment.

97 CTIA Comments at 8.

98 See id. at 10-12. See, generally, Attachment at ¶ 7, nn.33, 35, supra (CTIA discussing accessible feature phones

and new entities that market services and offer accessible phones to seniors and individuals who are blind or visually

impaired; CTIA reporting on features that make the advanced communications services functions on smartphones

more accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired).

99 See Attachment at ¶ 6, n.27, supra. Other individuals similarly commented on the accessibility of mobile devices,

particularly the Apple iPhone, a mobile phone with a built-in Internet browser. See Attachment at ¶ 6, supra.

100 ACB Comments at 3. See also Attachment at ¶ 4, supra.

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absence in this record of comments specifically to the contrary; i.e., no commenter reported that this

remains a problem for people who are blind or visually impaired.101 Additionally, we note that the

Commission received no requests for dispute assistance or informal complaints concerning potential

violations of Section 718 since it became effective on October 8, 2013, through the close of the reporting

period on December 31, 2013.102 As noted above, the lack of requests for assistance or complaints filed

during this three-month period may be due to many reasons, none of which are evidenced in the record.103

As such, we tentatively find that the lack of such requests for assistance or informal complaints is not

conclusive evidence of compliance, nor can it be used to infer compliance with Section 718.

24.

Accessibility gaps. While the record demonstrates progress with respect to meeting the

accessibility obligations of Sections 255, 716, and 718, we nevertheless tentatively conclude that some

accessibility gaps still exist and others have the potential to occur or reoccur. For example, as discussed

above, consumers report on the lack of accessible alerting systems for incoming video calls and other

messages.104 They also raise concerns about technology transitions that could threaten accessibility that

now exists,105 and urge that more needs to be done to allow their participation early on in the development

of products and services to ensure that their accessibility needs are met.106 Additionally, while we

tentatively concur with industry that platform-based technology has the advantage of enabling the

distribution of accessibility features through software updates,107 we note that where accessibility is not a

factor designed into software updates, there are concerns that these updates can end up impairing

accessibility for users with disabilities, a result that often cannot be undone after the update has been

downloaded.108 Of particular note is the apparent lack of accessibility to or compatibility with assistive

101 But see Attachment at ¶ 4, supra. ACB states that, even with a built-in screen reader, all of the Windows Phone

features are not accessible. Id. ACB does not, however, identify the Internet browser as one of those inaccessible

features.

102 See Attachment at ¶ 36, infra.

103 For example, there is no evidence in the record as to what mobile phones with built-in Internet browsers were

deployed during that three-month period. Further, consumers may not be aware of the accessibility requirements

mandated by Section 718 of the Act and the Commission’s rules, or of possible violations of those requirements, or

of their right to request assistance from or to file complaints with the Commission with respect to the inaccessibility

of Internet browsers built into mobile phones.

104 See Attachment at ¶ 3, supra (Consumer Groups noting the need for accessible alerting systems for incoming

video calls or other messages).

105 See, e.g., Attachment at ¶ 2, supra (Consumer Groups reporting concerns about problems with CTS relay

delivered over wireless systems); ¶ 12, supra (Consumer Groups expressing concerns about the need to maintain

connections for neckloops or other assistive devices).

106 See Attachment at ¶ 12, supra (Consumer Groups expressing concern that re-engineering happens too often

without consideration of the needs of people who are deaf or hard of hearing; AADB expressing concern that people

who are deaf-blind have insufficient opportunity to provide input into research and development of new

communications technologies).

107 See Attachment at ¶ 7, supra (CTIA explaining that the move to a platform-based approach by manufacturers

ensures that accessibility features are more consistently available). See also Attachment at ¶ 9, supra (TIA noting

that the software platform approach for inclusion of accessibility features leverages the principle of universal design

and greatly simplifies upgrades).

108 See Attachment at ¶ 5, supra. (AADB observing that upgrades or updates sometimes cause a device or app to

become less accessible or totally inaccessible for the user who is deaf-blind). See also Attachment at ¶ 28, infra

(discussing this further as an accessibility barrier to new communications technologies).

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technology used by individuals who are deaf-blind,109 and complaints that many of the wireless phones

that are being made available to low-income consumers who are blind or visually impaired by providers

that participate in the Commission’s Lifeline program either lack certain accessibility features, or are not

accessible at all.110 We also note that, while some providers appear to offer service plans that generally

meet the needs of consumers with disabilities,111 consumers have concerns about provider practices that

could, in the future, negatively impact data speeds or cap data usage, either of which may make video

communication difficult or impossible for consumers who are deaf or hard of hearing.112 These concerns

suggest a need to be mindful about avoiding the creation of new barriers to accessibility as technologies

and service plans continue to evolve.

25.

Industry consultation with individuals with disabilities. The CVAA requires covered

entities to keep records of their efforts to consult with individuals with disabilities.113 It is apparent that

industry has taken some steps to include people with disabilities in their design and development of

products and services. For example, CTIA, TIA, and Microsoft each report that they or their member

companies have undertaken efforts to consult with individuals with disabilities through meetings and

dialogues with consumer stakeholders,114 internal programs, 115 advisory panels, 116 and usability testing.117

However, we note that consumers remain concerned about the extent to which engineering of products

and services takes place without consideration of their accessibility needs. Consumer Groups, for

example, raise concerns that “re-engineering happens too often without thought to [the] accessibility

needs of people who are deaf or hard of hearing.”118 Similarly, AADB states that its constituency has

insufficient opportunity to provide input into the research and development of new communications

technologies to meet its needs.119 In light of these competing views, we tentatively find that, while some

efforts to consult with such individuals for this purpose have occurred over the past two years, more can

be done to include people with disabilities early on in design and development of advanced

communications products and services.

109 See Attachment at ¶ 5, supra (comments of AADB). See also Attachment at ¶ 28, infra (discussing this further as

an accessibility barrier to new communications technologies).

110 See Attachment at ¶ 6, supra. See also Attachment at ¶ 39, infra (CGB reporting on consumer complaints about

inaccessible wireless handsets received in conjunction with Lifeline services).

111 See Attachment at ¶ 20, supra (comments of CTIA).

112 See Attachment at ¶ 19, supra (comments of Consumer Groups).

113 See 47 U.S.C. § 618(a)(5)(a)(i).

114 See Attachment at ¶ 13, supra (CTIA reporting that its member companies have met with various disability-

related organizations and consumer representatives), ¶ 14, supra (TIA reporting that its members continue to liaise

with the disability community to ensure inclusive design, and that consultation with individuals with disabilities on

research and development is taking place at both the company and industry association levels), ¶ 15, supra (

Microsoft reporting that it holds an annual summit with Microsoft employees and disability rights advocates).

115 See Attachment at ¶ 13, supra (CTIA noting, specifically, the establishment of a Corporate Accessible

Technology Office by AT&T, and Verizon’s online training courses for new employees about accessibility

requirements).

116 See Attachment at ¶ 13, supra (CTIA reporting wireless provider initiatives, including advisory panels).

117 See Attachment at ¶ 15, supra (Microsoft reporting that it hires individuals with disabilities as usability testers).

118 See Attachment at ¶ 12, supra, citing Consumer Groups Comments at 3 (raising concerns about the possible

negative effects of elimination of the headphone jack on future models of smartphones).

119 See Attachment at ¶ 12, supra.

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26.

Usability of products and services. With respect to the usability of products and

services,120 we tentatively find that industry has engaged in some efforts to ensure the availability of

information about accessible products and services to people with disabilities, including training

personnel about accessible products and services.121 Nevertheless, we also tentatively find that gaps

remain in the usability of these offerings. For example, Consumer Groups report that finding information

about hearing aid compatible phones is still a challenge for consumers,122 and AADB expresses a need for

information about accessible products for consumers who are deaf-blind, as well as easy-to-use

instructions for communication apps.123 In addition, we note that complaints brought to the Commission

over the covered time period revealed a considerable number of problems with inaccessible instructions

or billing, inaccessible contact information or directory assistance, and inaccessible customer service.124

II.

Accessibility Barriers in New Communications Technologies

27.

Section 717(b)(1)(B) of the Act requires the Commission to provide an evaluation of the

extent to which any accessibility barriers still exist with respect to new communications technologies.125

The 2012 CVAA Biennial Report predicted that “many accessibility barriers in new communications

technologies will likely be addressed by industry compliance with the new accessibility requirements

under Section 716 and Section 718 when those requirements are fully effective.”126 In the 2014 CVAA

Assessment PN, the Commission sought comment on the extent to which this expectation has been met.127

The Commission also sought comment on the extent to which new communication technologies,

including new communication services, hardware, software, applications, or plug-ins, both within the

scope of the Act (e.g., covered under Sections 255, 716, and 718) and outside the scope of the Act, have

been deployed since the 2012 CVAA Biennial Report, and what barriers still exist with respect to these

technologies.128

A.

Comments Received

28.

Comments received from consumers who are deaf or hard of hearing show that they

continue to lack confidence that new communications technologies are being designed to be accessible.

For example, Consumer Groups fear that the rise of voice-controlled technologies, particularly those that

incorporate advanced communications services features, may exclude individuals who do not speak or

who do not speak clearly, and urge the Commission to monitor these new technologies.129 Consumer

120 As noted above, a product or service is “usable” if individuals with disabilities have access to the full

functionality and documentation for the product or service, including instructions, product or service information

(including accessible feature information), documentation and technical support functionally equivalent to that

provided to individuals without disabilities.

See Attachment at ¶ 16, n.76, supra.

121 See, e.g., Attachment at ¶ 17, supra (CTIA reporting that its members provide information about accessible

products and services through a variety of means); ¶ 18, supra (Microsoft noting that its customer assistance is

available from staff specially trained on accessibility issues).

122 See Attachment at ¶ 16, supra.

123 See Attachment at ¶ 16, supra.

124 See Attachment at ¶ 40, infra.

125 47 U.S.C. § 618(b)(1)(B).

126 2012 CVAA Biennial Report, 27 FCC Rcd at 12222, ¶ 46.

127 2014 CVAA Assessment PN, 29 FCC Rcd at ___, ¶ 12.

128 2014 CVAA Assessment PN, 29 FCC Rcd at ___, ¶ 12.

129 Consumer Groups Comments at 8-9.

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Groups also express concern that accessibility barriers to new communication technologies continue to

exist for individuals who are deaf-blind and for deaf individuals who also have mobility disabilities.130 In

particular, they report that IP Relay service,131 especially when used while mobile, is not accessible to

deaf-blind consumers who use Braille displays.132 Similarly, ACB’s comments allege the failure of

software system manufacturers, application designers, and smart television manufacturers to make their

communications technologies fully accessible to the blind community.133 For example, ACB mentions

that upgrades to Skype often make its user interface more difficult to use for users who are blind or

visually impaired.134 In particular, ACB urges that a committee be established to validate the accessibility

of software applications, so that consumers could know with certainty which apps are accessible.135 At

the same time, however, ACB applauds Comcast for its new set-top box that, despite some problems,

represents to ACB the sole industry attempt to make this type of navigation device accessible to blind

users.136

29.

Rather than focus on the extent to which new communications technologies have been

deployed since the 2012 CVAA Biennial Report or the barriers that still exist with respect to these

technologies in response to the 2014 CVAA Assessment PN, industry commenters propose Commission

actions that could be taken to increase accessibility. For example, to better serve all consumers, CTIA

urges the Commission to adopt policies “that make more spectrum available for commercial use, promote

infrastructure deployment, and rely on the lightest touch regulatory scheme possible.”137 Similarly, TIA

suggests that the Commission can effectively increase the availability of advanced communications

130 Id. at 8. To address these issues, Consumer Groups urge the development of a new type of relay service that

would enable such individuals to benefit from interpreters who are physically present, or to be matched with VRS

communication assistants who can understand and communicate with them. Id.

131 IP Relay service is defined in the Commission’s rules as a form of TRS “that permits an individual with a hearing

or a speech disability to communicate in text using an Internet Protocol-enabled device via the Internet, rather than

using a text telephone (TTY) and the public switched telephone network.” 47 C.F.R. § 64.601(17).

132 AADB Comments at 3, 5; ACB Comments at 2. AADB states that manufacturers, software developers, and

others often proclaim that products, such as digital talking books or audio only temperature apps, are “fully

accessible” when they are not accessible to individuals who are deaf-blind. AADB Comments at 2. These kinds of

products, however, do not fall within the scope of this Report to the extent they do not provide advanced

communication services. In addition, AADB expresses dissatisfaction with their members’ ability to access captions

or video descriptions on video or television programs through their assistive devices, matters that are also outside

the scope of this Report. Id. at 5.

133 ACB Comments at 2-3. We note, however, that the Commission has granted a class waiver of the advanced

communications services accessibility rules until October 8, 2015, for Internet protocol-enabled television sets. ACS

Waiver Order, 27 FCC Rcd at 12973-78, ¶¶ 6-14.

134 ACB Comments at 2.

135 Id.

136 Id. at 2. A set-top box is a form of navigation device “used by consumers to access multichannel video

programming and other services offered over multichannel video programming system.” 47 C.F.R. § 76.1200(c).

Although we note ACB’s praise for the accessibility of these devices here, it is not clear whether any of the

navigation device features to which ACB alludes enable access to the communications technologies covered by this

Report. We also note that the Commission granted a class waiver of the advanced communications accessibility

rules until October 8, 2015, for set-top boxes that are leased by cable operators to their customers. ACS Waiver

Order, 27 FCC Rcd at 12978-82, ¶¶ 15-22.

137 CTIA Comments at 36. Further, with a goal toward reducing regulation, CTIA suggests that the Commission

evaluate the continued need for wireless phones to be compatible with TTYs, which CTIA says may be outdated.

Id. at 39-40.

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services and products to people with disabilities by affording manufacturers maximum flexibility in

meeting the requirements of the CVAA.138 CEA notes that modern electronic devices and apps have

removed many accessibility barriers (which CEA recognizes in its annual Innovation Awards), and

further suggests that policy makers and advocates should encourage more advanced devices and apps to

increase accessibility.139

B.

Tentative Findings on Accessibility Barriers in New Communications Technologies

30.

Based on comments filed in response to the 2014 CVAA Assessment PN, we tentatively

find that while strides have been made toward ensuring the accessibility of new communication

technologies in industry design and development processes, accessibility barriers still exist with respect to

certain new communications technologies. We base our tentative conclusion that accessibility gains have

been made, in part, on reports of industry efforts to incorporate the input of individuals with disabilities

through product testing, to consider accessibility needs during the research and development stages of

new products and services,140 and to modify internal processes as needed to comply with the accessibility

requirements.141

Further support is found in the reported breadth of accessibility features offered in

today’s communications technologies by manufacturers and service providers.142

31.

Our tentative finding that accessibility barriers still exist is supported by AADB’s and

Consumer Groups’ reports that a majority of communications technologies are not accessible to

individuals who are deaf-blind.143 Consumer Groups also report that accessibility barriers exist for deaf

individuals who also have mobility disabilities.144 In addition, Consumer Groups observe that mainstream

video conferencing services remain incompatible with TRS, and that off-the-shelf video conferencing

systems, upon which many individuals who use American Sign Language rely for their primary means of

communication, are not interoperable among themselves or with videophones available through VRS

138 TIA Comments at 9. TIA asserts that strict application of the advanced communications services accessibility

requirements would harm the public interest without meaningfully increasing access to advanced communications

services for people with disabilities. Id. at 10. Microsoft also cites with approval the Commission’s flexible

regulations. Microsoft Comments at 3. While Microsoft uses as an example the Commission’s efforts to focus on

ease of use rather than specific solutions for its closed captioning requirements, we note that the Commission’s rules

governing closed captioning fall outside the scope of the communications accessibility discussion in this Report. Id.

at 3-4.

139 CEA Comments at 5-6. With respect to accessibility barriers that exist in new technologies, CEA recommends

that the Commission’s evaluation be limited to services and equipment that are subject to Sections 255, 716, and 718

of the Act. Id. at 6. As noted in its 2012 CVAA Biennial Report, the Commission believes that Congress will be

better informed about the state of communications that are or are not accessible to individuals with disabilities, the

impact of the CVAA, and the need for additional legislative action, if any, if the Commission’s report includes an

account of accessibility barriers with respect to “new communications technologies” that fall within and outside the

scope of the Act and that can and cannot be eliminated with reasonable effort or expense. 2012 CVAA Biennial

Report, 27 FCC Rcd at 12222, ¶ 45.

140 See, Attachment at ¶¶ 13-15, supra (CTIA, TIA, and Microsoft reporting on efforts to consult with individuals

with disabilities – from research and development through product testing).

141 See Attachment at ¶ 10, supra (CEA discussing its members’ efforts to comply with advanced communications

services accessibility requirements).

142 See Attachment at ¶¶ 7-8, supra (comments of CTIA).

143 See Attachment at ¶¶ 5, 28, supra, (Consumer Groups advocating for a new type of relay service for such

individuals).

144 See Attachment at ¶ 28, supra.

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providers.145 Statements submitted by the Consumer Groups that accessibility barriers may be created by

the advent of new technologies also lead us to tentatively conclude that there is a need for industry design

and development teams to be mindful of the effects that new product and service design features can have

on accessibility. For example, Consumer Groups report potential new barriers that may result if voice

controls replace (rather than supplement) interfaces presently accessible to people who are deaf, hard of

hearing, or have speech disabilities,146 and if software upgrades reverse accessibility currently available

on certain devices or apps.147

III.

Complaints Received Pursuant to Section 717

32.

Sections 717(b)(1)(C)-(F) of the Act require the Commission to report the following

information with respect to complaints received pursuant to Section 717(a) of the Act that allege

violations of Sections 255, 716, or 718 of the Act:

the number and nature of complaints received during the two years that are the subject of the

Commission’s Report, i.e., between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2013;

the actions taken to resolve such complaints, including forfeiture penalties assessed;

the length of time that was taken by the Commission to resolve each such complaint; and

the number, status, nature, and outcome of any actions for mandamus and any appeals

filed.148

33.

Before addressing each of these matters, this section of the Report provides a brief

explanation of the complaint procedures used by CGB for the handling of accessibility complaints filed

under Section 255 before the effective date of the CVAA complaint procedures, and how those

procedures have been changed, effective October 8, 2013, for accessibility complaints filed under

Sections 255, 716, and 718.

34.

Prior accessibility complaint procedures. In 1997, the Commission adopted procedures

to address informal complaints filed under Section 255 of the Act.149 These procedures remained in effect

from January 1, 2012 until October 8, 2013, which constitutes part of the period covered by this Report.

Under these procedures, individuals were permitted to file an informal accessibility complaint with

CGB’s Disability Rights Office (DRO) by letter, phone call, fax, online form, or other reasonable

means.150 Upon receipt, CGB entered the complaint into a database called the Consumer Complaint

Management System (CCMS) and then served a Notice of Informal Complaint (NOIC) on the service

provider and/or equipment manufacturer against whom the complaint was brought.151 The provider or

145 See Attachment at ¶ 3, supra (Consumer Groups discussing accessibility barriers with respect to video

conferencing services and equipment).

146 See Attachment at ¶ 28, supra (comments of Consumer Groups).

147 See, e.g., Attachment at ¶ 28, supra (ACB discussing upgrades to Skype that make its user interface more

difficult to use); ¶ 5, supra (AADB noting that upgrades or updates sometimes cause a device or app to become less

accessible or totally inaccessible for the user who is deaf-blind).

148 47 U.S.C. §§ 618(b)(1)(C)-(F). See also Notice at ¶ 11, supra.

149 See 47 C.F.R. §§ 6.16-6.20, 7.16-7.20. No formal complaints regarding accessibility were filed during the period

covered by this Report. See 47 C.F.R. §§ 6.21-6.22, 7.21-7.22 (formal complaint procedures).

150 47 C.F.R. §§ 6.17(a), 7.17(a).

151 See 47 C.F.R. §§ 6.18(a), 7.18(a).

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manufacturer was then given 30 days in which to respond to the NOIC.152 If DRO then concluded that all

issues were satisfied and the consumer’s satisfaction with the resolution was verified, or that no further

action was required or possible, it considered the matter closed and sent the consumer a close-out

letter.153

DRO was not authorized to impose forfeitures or take other enforcement action in response to an

informal complaint alone. However, if the consumer was not satisfied with the provider’s or

manufacturer’s response to the complaint and the DRO decision to terminate action, the consumer could

file a formal complaint that could go to the Commission’s Enforcement Bureau to determine whether a

material and substantial question remained with respect to compliance.154 The Enforcement Bureau could

then investigate further to determine compliance and whether any remedial actions and/or sanctions were

warranted.155

35.

New accessibility complaint procedures. Effective October 8, 2013, the Commission

revised the complaint process for handling complaints filed under Sections 255, 716 and 718 of the

CVAA, pursuant to new rules implementing Section 717(a) of the Act.156 The new rules require that

before filing an informal complaint, a consumer must submit a “request for dispute assistance” (RDA) to

DRO for help in resolving the consumer’s accessibility problem with a telecommunications or advanced

communications service provider or equipment manufacturer.157 If the two parties do not reach a

settlement within 30 days after the filing of an RDA, the parties may agree to extend the time for

resolution in 30-day increments, or the requester may file an informal complaint with the Enforcement

Bureau.158

36.

Since October 8, 2013, the Commission’s new complaint rules have established

minimum requirements for information that must be contained in an informal complaint.159 These rules

further specify that upon receipt, the Commission must forward an informal complaint to the service

provider or equipment manufacturer named in or implicated by the complaint.160 The service provider or

manufacturer then must file with the Commission and serve an answer responsive to the complaint and

any Commission inquiries, and serve the complainant and the Commission with a non-confidential

summary of that answer within 20 days of service of the complaint.161 Within 180 days after receipt of

the complaint, the Commission must conclude an investigation into the merits of the complaint and issue

152 47 C.F.R. §§ 6.19, 7.19.

153 See 47 C.F.R. §§ 6.18(a)-(b), 7.18(a)-(b).

154 See 47 C.F.R. §§ 6.20(b)-(c), 7.20(b)-(c).

155 See 47 C.F.R. §§ 6.20(c)-(d), 7.20(c)-(d).

156 See 47 C.F.R. §§ 14.32 (consumer dispute assistance), 14.34-14.37 (informal complaints), 14.38-14.52 (formal

complaints). See also New Procedures for Telecommunications and Advanced Communications Accessibility

Complaints, FCC 13-2177, Public Notice, 28 FCC Rcd 15712 (CGB 2013), available at

https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-13-2177A1.pdf.

157 Prior to October 8, 2013, consumers were able to file informal complaints with DRO alleging a violation of

Section 255 of the Act without the prerequisite filing of an RDA.

158 47 C.F.R. § 14.32(e). See also ACS Report and Order, 26 FCC Rcd at 14658, ¶ 237. Although, previously,

consumers could file informal complaints alleging a violation of Section 255, 716, or 718 of the Act with DRO,

these complaints must now be filed with the Commission’s Enforcement Bureau. 47 C.F.R. § 14.34(a). However,

since October 8, 2013, consumers are still able to file formal complaints with the Enforcement Bureau without first

submitting requests for dispute assistance. 47 C.F.R. §§ 14.38-14.52

159 47 C.F.R. § 14.34(b).

160 47 C.F.R. § 14.35(a).

161 47 C.F.R. §§ 14.36(b)-(c). The complainant may then file a reply. 47 C.F.R. § 14.36(d).

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its order determining whether a violation has occurred.162 It may, in such order, or in a subsequent order,

direct the service provider to bring the service or, in the case of a manufacturer, the next generation of the

equipment, into compliance with the requirements of Section 255, 716, or 718 within a reasonable period

of time and take other authorized and appropriate enforcement action.163

37.

When the Commission established the RDA process, it anticipated that this process

would allow for the resolution of consumer accessibility concerns through dialogue and negotiation,

thereby reducing the need for informal complaints, and consequent enforcement action.164

We believe

that the new RDA process has succeeded in this respect, and that the new complaint process has further

encouraged service providers and equipment manufacturers to comply with the accessibility rules.

A.

Number and Nature of Complaints Received

38.

From January 1, 2012, to October 7, 2013, consumers filed 85 informal complaints with

the Commission, alleging violations of Section 255 of the Act or its implementing regulations.165 Of

these complaints, approximately 34% alleged violations by equipment manufacturers and 54% alleged

violations by service providers, with the remaining 12% alleging both service and equipment violations.

In addition, between October 8, 2013 and December 31, 2013, consumers filed seven RDAs with DRO

under the new complaint procedures, all of which concerned Section 255 of the Act or its implementing

regulations.166 During that three-month period, no RDAs were filed alleging violations of Sections 716 or

718 of the Act, and no informal complaints were filed alleging violations of Sections 255, 716, or 718.

Of the seven RDAs that were filed, approximately 86% alleged violations by service providers and 14%

alleged violations by both equipment manufacturers and service providers. For the entire two-year period

covered by this Report, a total of 92 informal complaints and RDAs were filed, all of which alleged

accessibility violations under Section 255. An aggregate of approximately 31.5% alleged violations by

equipment manufacturers and 56.5% alleged violations by service providers, with the remaining 12%

alleging both service and equipment violations.

39.

Equipment-related complaints and RDAs raised a wide range of accessibility issues by

consumers with disabilities. Many consumers complained of handsets that lacked text-to-speech

functionality, or that had keyboards that were hard to read or buttons that were too small to use. Others

complained of handsets that were not compatible with their hearing aids or that had poor sound quality.

Approximately 15% of all informal complaints and RDAs received during the reporting period involved

complaints about inaccessible wireless handsets received in conjunction with subscriptions for telephone

services under the Commission’s Lifeline program.

162 47 U.S.C. § 618(a)(3)(B) and (4). See also 47 C.F.R. § 14.37(a).

163 47 U.S.C. § 618(a)(3)(B)(i). See also 47 C.F.R. § 14.37(b). Any manufacturer or service provider that is the

subject of such order has a reasonable opportunity to comment on the Commission’s proposed remedial action

before the Commission issues a final order with respect to that action. 47 U.S.C. § 618(a)(4). See also 47 C.F.R. §

14.37(c).

164 See 2012 CVAA Biennial Report, 27 FCC Rcd at 12224, ¶ 49, n.148.

165 From January 1, 2012, until October 8, 2013, consumers filing Section 255 accessibility complaints utilized the

Commission’s prior informal complaint procedures. See Attachment at ¶ 34, supra.

166 From October 8, 2013, through December 31, 2013, consumers filing Section 255 accessibility complaints

utilized the Commission’s new accessibility complaint procedures. See Attachment at ¶¶ 35-36, supra. Also during

this period, and perhaps due to consumer unfamiliarity with the new accessibility complaint procedures, DRO

received an additional 21 RDAs, but because these did not involve violations of Section 255, 716 or 718, DRO

converted these to complaints filed under other provisions of the Act. These 21 RDAs are therefore not included in

the above statistics.

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40.

Complaints and RDAs involving service providers predominantly focused on their failure

to provide instructions or billing in an accessible format, accessible contact information or directory

assistance, and accessible customer service. More specifically, approximately 12% of all informal

complaints and RDAs alleged an inability to access billing information. Most of these were from

consumers who were blind or visually impaired, who expressed long-standing frustrations with acquiring

access to their accounts. Some of the consumers were facing imminent service cut-offs at the time they

filed their complaint or RDA, due to an inability to access their billing information. An additional 11% of

informal complaints and RDAs came from consumers who, because they are blind or visually impaired,

sought free access to a phone company’s 411 directory assistance services because they could not access

free text-based telephone directory information. Another 6% of the informal complaints and RDAs were

from consumers who are deaf or hard of hearing, who alleged that certain communication service

providers refused to accept calls made through TRS, a TTY, or to otherwise communicate by text.167

B.

Actions Taken to Resolve Accessibility Complaints

41.

Complaints filed under prior accessibility complaint procedures. For each informal

complaint filed with the Commission between January 1, 2012, and October 8, 2013, DRO forwarded the

complaint to, and served an NOIC on, the service provider and/or equipment manufacturer alleged to

have violated Commission rules. In most cases, equipment manufacturers and service providers

attempted to work with consumers to resolve their particular needs. Accessibility complaints were often

addressed by providing the requested equipment, identifying equipment that was available as an upgrade,

or informing consumers of new models with accessibility features that would be issued in the future. For

example, DRO was generally successful in securing accessible equipment for complainants seeking

accessible phones from providers in the Lifeline program because these providers typically could identify

higher cost handsets with accessible features, which they provided to complainants at no additional cost.

Service providers also accommodated consumers who needed accessible formats for billing, equipment

instructions, and directory assistance. DRO intervention also prevented service disruption for several

complainants who had been unable to pay their bills due to inaccessible formats.

42.

In a majority of cases, as a result of DRO’s actions, complaints about accessibility and

usability problems were resolved promptly and to the satisfaction of the consumer. For all but three of

the 85 informal complaints filed during the reporting period (i.e., in 96% of these cases), DRO verified

the consumer’s satisfaction with the resolution or determined that no further action was required or

possible, and sent the consumer a close-out letter during the reporting period.

One of the remaining

complaints was resolved after the reporting period closed. DRO is making best efforts to facilitate

resolution of the two complaints that are still pending

43.

New accessibility complaint procedures. For six of the seven RDAs filed under the new

complaint procedures, DRO contacted the consumer and the manufacturer or service provider in an

attempt to resolve the accessibility or usability problem. DRO dismissed one RDA because it was unable

to obtain a response from the consumer to obtain additional information about the accessibility problem

or to facilitate resolution. DRO was able to facilitate a resolution for each of the remaining six RDAs,

167 For example, a deaf consumer alleged that her major mobile telephone service provider refused to communicate

with her about her account through TRS, suggesting instead that it communicate with the consumer’s 14-year-old

daughter or by having the complainant physically appear at one of the provider’s stores. The consumer’s complaint

was resolved when DRO informed the provider of its obligation to ensure usable customer service and technical

support in call centers that support their products. See 47 C.F.R. § 6.11(a)(3).

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and none were escalated to an informal complaint for investigation by the Enforcement Bureau.168 Based

on this experience, it appears that there is general consumer satisfaction with the new dispute assistance

and complaint process.

44.

The Commission did not assess any forfeiture penalties for accessibility-related violations

during the period covered by this Report.

C.

Time Used to Resolve Accessibility Complaints

45.

Complaints filed under prior accessibility complaint procedures. Under the prior

complaint procedures, there was no prescribed time frame for resolving informal complaints alleging

violations of Section 255. Of the 82 informal complaints that were received and closed by DRO during

the reporting period, 51 complaints, or approximately 62%, were closed within 90 days. Another 26

complaints, or approximately 32%, were closed between 90 and180 days. Five complaints, or about 6%,

were closed between 180 days and one year. In other words, all 82 informal complaints that were

received and closed by DRO during the reporting period were resolved within one year.

46.

New accessibility complaint procedures. Under the new complaint procedures, a

consumer must submit an RDA and allow DRO 30 days to facilitate resolution of the accessibility

problem, before the consumer may file an informal complaint with the Enforcement Bureau. The time

period for resolution may be extended in 30-day increments. Of the seven RDAs that were filed during

the reporting period, one was dismissed at the end of 60 days because DRO was unable to obtain a

response from the consumer. DRO facilitated resolution of four of the remaining RDAs within 30 days of

receipt and one within 60 days of receipt. DRO resolved the final RDA after the reporting period ended,

but within 180 days of receipt. None of the RDAs filed were escalated to an informal complaint for

investigation by the Enforcement Bureau.

D.

Actions for Mandamus and Appeals Filed

47.

There were no actions for mandamus or appeals filed with respect to complaints during

the period covered by this Report.

IV.

Effect of Section 717’s Recordkeeping and Enforcement Requirements on the Development

and Deployment of New Communications Technologies

48.

Section 717(b)(1)(G) of the Act requires the Commission to provide an assessment of the

effect of the requirements of Section 717 of the Act on the development and deployment of new

communications technologies.169 Section 717(a) requires the Commission to establish new recordkeeping

and enforcement procedures for service providers and equipment manufacturers that are subject to

Sections 255, 716, and 718.170 In the 2014 CVAA Assessment PN, the Commission sought comment on

168 For example, one service provider worked with a consumer who had difficulty in finding an accessible mobile

handset with sufficiently strong signal reception in his home. The service provider allowed the consumer to test

several models until the consumer was able to find an accessible handset that he could use.

169 47 U.S.C. § 618(b)(1)(G).

170 47 U.S.C. § 618(a). In October 2011, the Commission adopted these procedures, which require service providers

and equipment manufacturers to maintain records to demonstrate compliance with Sections 255, 716, and 718 when

a complaint is filed. 47 C.F.R. § 14.36(a). Entities must certify annually to the Commission that they have kept

records pertaining to the accessibility of their products beginning January 30, 2013. See 47 U.S.C. § 618(a)(5)(B);

47 C.F.R. § 14.31. In response to an informal complaint, the manufacturer or service provider “must produce

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the impact, if any, that the CVAA’s recordkeeping requirements and enforcement measures, including the

requirement for consumers to request dispute assistance from the Commission as a prerequisite to filing

an informal complaint, have had on the development and deployment of accessible new communications

technologies since these requirements became effective.171 The Commission also asked whether service

providers and equipment manufacturers have identified best practices with respect to the recordkeeping

requirements that can be shared with others.172

A.

Comments Received

49.

No consumer organizations commented on the recordkeeping or enforcement

requirements of Section 717. Industry, however, generally reports that it finds value in certain aspects of

Section 717’s recordkeeping and enforcement requirements, and otherwise urges clarification of or

flexibility in interpretation of other aspects of those requirements. CTIA states that “the CVAA and good

faith efforts of the wireless industry and accessibility community has resulted in collaborations that

encourage the exchange of information about priorities, challenges, and issues.”173 In particular, CTIA

believes that the requirement to provide contact information for a company representative who can

address accessibility complaints “has been a resounding success,” enabling resolution of accessibility

concerns before requesting assistance from or filing complaints with the Commission.174 CTIA urges that

this direct engagement continue as the primary method of resolving issues.175

50.

CTIA also urges the Commission to recognize the need for flexibility in recordkeeping

and consultation requirements.176 Nonetheless, CTIA opines that Commission actions, such as clarifying

recordkeeping and consultation requirements, could improve the ability of covered entities to comply

fully with the CVAA requirements.177 For example, CTIA suggests that, in the absence of a Commission

determination about “the types of records, processes, and efforts to engage the accessibility community”

that comply with the Commission’s rules, the Commission should “remain flexible with respect to

imposing any penalties if an entity’s records are ultimately unexpectedly found to be insufficient or non-

compliant.”178 Similarly, TIA states that its members have been complying with the recordkeeping

requirements and certifications required under the CVAA, and stresses that “it is important that the

Commission continue to recognize the need for flexibility and efficiency in the approaches taken to meet

documents demonstrating its due diligence in exploring accessibility and achievability . . . throughout the design,

development, testing, and deployment stages of a product or service.” 47 C.F.R. § 14.36(a). Since October 8, 2013,

the Commission also has been required to investigate complaints filed under these sections and to issue orders on

such investigations within 180 days after an informal complaint is filed, unless the complaint is resolved before that

time. 47 C.F.R. § 14.37(a).

171 2014 CVAA Assessment PN, 29 FCC Rcd at ___, ¶ 14.

172 Id.

173 CTIA Comments at 34.

174 Id.

175 Id.

176 Id. at 35-36. CTIA also recommends streamlining hearing aid compatibility reporting requirements. Id. at 35.

Hearing aid compatibility reporting requirements are outside the scope of Section 717 of the Act.

177 Id. at 34-36.

178 Id. at 36, citing PN Comments of CTIA-The Wireless Association – Accessibility of Communications

Technologies, Docket No. 10-213 (filed Jul. 25, 2012) at 19-20 (recognizing that the “development of an effective

recordkeeping process may require some experience with the rules and their enforcement,” CTIA urged the

Commission not to “penalize entities that are attempting in good faith to comply with the rules”).

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the recordkeeping obligations outlined within the CVAA.”179 Likewise, CEA applauds the flexibility

provided with respect to recordkeeping mechanisms, but notes that the process still requires significant

resources, and urges the Commission to continue to avoid regulations or enforcement practices that lock

in any given solution that may become obsolete.180

B.

Tentative Findings on the Effect of Section 717’s Recordkeeping and Enforcement

Requirements on the Development and Deployment of New Communications

Technologies

51.

Based on the record before us, we tentatively find that the recordkeeping obligations

mandated by Section 717, along with the flexibility provided to entities charged with complying with

these requirements, have helped to foster collaboration between industry and consumers, and have helped

to eliminate accessibility barriers encountered by consumers with disabilities. We base this tentative

conclusion on the increasing array of accessible products and services now available to consumers to

access advanced communications technologies.181

At the same time, we tentatively conclude that nothing

in the record indicates that Section 717’s requirements will hinder the development and deployment of

new communications technologies. We base this tentative conclusion on the significant growth in the

number and types of new communications technologies that have emerged over the past two years.182

179 TIA Comments at 10.

180 CEA Comments at 6.

181 See, e.g., Attachment at ¶ 7, n.33, supra (CTIA discussing accessible feature phones and new entities that market

services and offer accessible phones to seniors and individuals who are blind or visually impaired); ¶ 7, nn.35-38,

supra (CTIA reporting on features that make the advanced communications services functions on smartphones more

accessible to individuals with disabilities); ¶ 10, supra (CEA reporting that its members are actively engaged in

efforts to comply with the Commission’s advanced communications services accessibility rules); ¶ 11, supra

(Microsoft noting that it provides consumers with disabilities a choice of built-in or third-party accessibility

solutions). See also Attachment at ¶ 49, supra (CTIA discussing wireless industry and accessibility community

collaborations).

182 See, e.g., “Ten Breakthrough Technologies 2013: Smart Watches,” available at

http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/513376/smart-watches/ (last viewed Aug. 15, 2014) (Pebble smart

watches “connect wirelessly to an iPhone or Android phone and displays notifications, messages, and other simple

data of the user’s choosing”); “Google Glass,” available at http://www.google.com/glass/start/what-it-does/ (last

viewed Aug. 15, 2014) (Send a Message: “Whether you ski, snowboard, snowshoe or anything in between, it's

never easy to keep track of your friends. With Glass, you can keep your mittens on and send messages hands free

through SMS or Hangouts.”).

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