“This page is a digitally archived AccessInfo Announcement”

On August 4, 2016, the FCC took several steps to improve access by individuals with disabilities.

1. National Deaf‐Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP)

The FCC adopted a Report and Order to make permanent the NDBEDP, also known as “iCanConnect.” The program provides equipment, such as refreshable braille devices and magnifiers, to enable access to telecommunications, Internet access, and advanced communications services by low‐income individuals who are deaf‐blind. Individualized assessments, equipment installation, and training are also available.

The Report and Order carries forward many of the policies from the pilot program and modifies others. For example, the new requirements will:

  • Extend the program to Guam, Northern Marianas, and American Samoa.
  • Certify programs for periods of five years.
  • Reduce funding for national outreach given the success of national and local outreach efforts during the pilot program.
  • Authorize the development of a centralized database that certified programs must use for reporting purposes and may use to generate reimbursement claims.
  • Require the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) to assess program performance during the fifth year of the permanent program
  • Require certain consumer notifications about the program to be included on program application forms.
  • Establish procedures for filing informal complaints with the FCC.

The effective date and implementation schedule for the rules for the permanent program will be announced when made available.

NDBEDP News Release:

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NDBEDP Report and Order:

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For further information, contact Rosaline Crawford, CGB, Disability Rights Office (DRO), at 202‐418‐2075 or e‐mail Rosaline.Crawford@fcc.gov, or Jackie Ellington, CGB, DRO, at 202‐418‐1153 or e‐mail Jackie.Ellington@fcc.gov.

2. Hearing Aid Compatibility (HAC)

The FCC adopted a Report and Order to amend the HAC requirements generally for wireless service providers and manufacturers of digital wireless handsets. Specifically, the FCC increased the number of HAC handsets that service providers and manufacturers are required to offer by setting two new percentage benchmarks:

  • 66 percent of offered handset models must be compliant following a two‐year transition period for manufacturers, with additional compliance time for service providers, and
  • 85 percent of offered handset models must be compliant following a five‐year transition period for manufacturers, with additional compliance time for service providers.

The new rules establish a more limited obligation for entities offering only four or five handsets. The FCC reconfirms its commitment to pursuing 100 percent compatibility within eight years.

HAC News Release:

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HAC Report and Order:

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For more information, please contact Eli Johnson, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, (202) 418‐1395, e‐mail  Eli.Johnson@fcc.gov, and Michael Rowan, Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, (202) 418‐1883, e‐mail  Michael.Rowan@fcc.gov.

3. Video Relay Service (VRS) Interoperability and Portability Standards.

The Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) of the FCC issued a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) to propose to amend the FCC’s rules to include specific VRS interoperability and portability standards. These standards were developed by the VRS Task Group of the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) Forum and the Relay User Equipment (RUE) Forum.

These proposed standards would:

  • Allow a VRS user to place and receive calls through any VRS provider and make point‐to‐point calls to any VRS user.
  • Allow a VRS user to export or import his or her personal contacts list (or address book) and speed dial list when the user ports his or her phone number to a new VRS provider.

The FNPRM also proposes a process that will make it easy to make revisions to the rule if the standards are amended or changed. Finally, the FNPRM seeks comment on the implementation of the recently completed RUE standards.

For more information about the VRS interoperability and portability standards, please visit:

VRS Provider Interoperability Profile
RUE Profile

Comments and reply comments due dates will be announced when available.

VRS Interoperability and Portability FNPRM:

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For additional information, contact Eliot Greenwald, CGB, Disability Rights Office, at (202) 418‐2235, or e‐mail  Eliot.Greenwald@fcc.gov, or Bob Aldrich, CGB, at (202) 418‐0996, or e‐mail Robert.Aldrich@fcc.gov.

For those using videophones and fluent in American Sign Language, you may call the ASL Consumer Support Line at 844‐432‐2275 regarding any of the above matters.

Updated: 
Thursday, September 15, 2016