Universal Design in Telecommunications: Putting Practice into Policy

Kelly Schaefer and Adele Crudden

Despite the inclusion of telecommunications access policies in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, consumers with disabilities still lack access and choice among telecommunications products and services. Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires telecommunications equipment and services to be accessible to and usable by consumers with disabilities if “readily achievable” (without much difficulty or expense). The problem with this standard is that it gives product manufacturers discretion in choosing which of their products are accessible to and usable by consumers with disabilities and to what extent. The purpose of our presentation is to provide very simple examples of how telecommunications products can be designed to be accessible and usable to consumers with a range of abilities using a universal design approach. Our presentation will conclude with some specific recommendations for telecommunication access policy reform.

Presentation Slides:
Slides 1-10
Slides 11-20
Slides 21-30
Slides 31-40

Kelly Schaefer is a Research Associate at the RRTC on Blindness and Low Vision, where she is co-principal investigator on a Disability and Rehabilitation Research Project on Persons Aging with Hearing and Vision Loss. Ms. Schaefer received her B.S. in business administration from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her MBA from Mississippi State University.

Adele Crudden is an Associate Professor and Director of the Social Work Program at Mississippi State University with a joint appointment at the RRTC on Blindness and Low Vision. She is currently involved in a project using a case study approach to describe exemplary state vocational rehabilitation programs serving persons who are blind/severely visually impaired. In addition to being a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, she is a Certified Disability Management Specialist, and is state licensed as both a counselor and social worker.

Presentation from the 'Workplace Accommodations: State of the Science' conference, September 15-16, 2005, Atlanta, GA