Innovation is one of the core drivers for advancement in accessibility for people with disabilities. The Chairman's Awards for Advancement in Accessibility (Chairman's AAA) is an FCC program recognizing products, services, standards and other innovative developments that improve the experience of people with disabilities in telecommunications and technology.
The Chairman's AAA celebrates outstanding private and public sector ventures as part of the Commission's continuing effort to facilitate ongoing exchanges among the telecommunications industry, assistive technology companies, app developers, government representatives and consumers to share best practices and solutions for accessible communications technologies.
Winners for 2018 were recognized at an awards ceremony on June 12, 2018, held in conjunction with the M-Enabling Summit in Arlington, VA. Winners also received a plaque from the FCC, and will be commemorated on a permanent plaque on display at FCC Headquarters in Washington.
Winners of 2018 Chairman’s AAA
Winner: Orbit Reader 20
Description: This refreshable braille display and notetaker significantly reduces the price point for this type of accessible technology, which has been prohibitively expensive for many blind and low vision persons. The American Printing House for the Blind worked with Orbit technologies to pioneer a revolutionary technology for actuating the braille pins in the display, which also saves power. The availability of affordable refreshable braille displays will greatly expand accessibility, and their use with smartphones and other devices will help those who are blind or have low vision stay connected in the digital age.
Description: WGBH in Boston and the National Center on Accessible Media have developed a free program for closed captioning and video descriptions. The software for laptops and desktops is a cost-free solution that enables small video content creators to easily caption and provide audio descriptions for their video content.
Winner: Content Clarifier
Description: The IBM AbilityLab Content Clarifier is an innovative accessible technology that uses artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, machine learning models, and natural language processing to simplify, summarize, and augment digital content to increase comprehension for people with cognitive disabilities, the aging population, or those learning English as a second language. The Content Clarifier can be integrated into any software application and can be used in educational materials, websites, apps, and smartphones.
Winner: Seeing AI
Description: This free Microsoft app narrates the visual world to improve accessibility and independence for blind and low vision persons. Using deep learning and natural language algorithms, the Seeing AI app describes nearby people, text, and objects with spoken audio, and includes real-time text and handwriting reading.
A selection committee at the FCC evaluates nominations based on the following criteria:
- How unique and inventive is the nominated effort?
- How does it address disability needs? For example: Does it have a positive, significant impact in meeting the unique needs of specific underserved or small populations? Does it reach a broader audience to increase awareness or promote deployment or adoption of accessible technologies?
- How affordable and available is the nominated effort for its intended users?
- To what degree would the nominated effort significantly and tangibly benefit from recognition by the Chairman?