Given the range of disabilities, their
severity, and the individual interests and needs of people with disabilities, it
is unlikely that “accessibility” can ever be rendered completely objective.
However, there are areas in which objective standards could be developed
that would simplify the process of design and testing.
This same information delivered to potential consumers would simplify
their purchasing decisions.
Some of this work is already underway.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has developed a text
telephone interoperability standard (v.18 -- see Appendix I) and several other
Working Groups are proceeding to guarantee that text communication is included
in videotelephone, Internet telephony, and other standards related to emerging
technologies (T.120, T.134, T.140). Other
international groups have addressed the access issues of smart cards and
keyboard tactile indicators (nibs) from a standards perspective.
IEEE’s C.63.19 Committee is working on hearing aid compatibility for
wireless phones, extending the existing standard for hearing aid compatibility
developed by EIA, RS-504. Other
areas that could benefit from standards are:
Corresponding to the standards work in Recommendation D1 would be testing protocols. Wherever obvious measurements are absent, manufacturers should be given clear directives about how to test for compliance. These would be especially useful where subjective input is needed from typical or representative individuals with disabilities. A Draft Test Protocol for TTY access to voice mail and IVR systems was developed by the Industry Forum on TTY Access to Public Voice Mail and IVR Systems.
Manufacturers of mainstream
telecommunications products have much to offer the world of accessible
telecommunications, both in technical know-how and organizational leverage.
Many companies and industry associations already connect with
disability-oriented organizations and venues.
The Association of Access Engineering Specialists, the Digital Wireless
TTY Forum, the Industry Forum on TTY Access to Voice Mail and IVR Systems, the
National Association of State Relay Administrators (NASRA), RESNA, and the
Telecommunications Equipment Distribution Program Association (TEDPA) all
benefit from their ties to industry.
These ties should be strengthened. The individuals from companies who attend or support these activities have learned the common language of accessible telecommunications. Now the need is greater for people within industry who understand access issues and can make those issues relevant to the way they and their colleagues do their work. The handful of energetic champions need to be supplemented by squads of focused implementers within each company.