The Access Board’s NPRM on Section 255
referred to an intention to perform a market monitoring report “on a regular
basis.” The Final Rule made no
such commitment, beyond the recognition of their statutory requirement to
“review and update the guidelines periodically.”
We urge the Access Board to reaffirm its commitment to conduct regularly
periodic Market Monitoring Reports.
In order for the telecommunication
market to be understood, it must be seen as intensely dynamic.
Not only are models changing, product categories are constantly evolving.
For example, the earliest cordless phones had no displays.
Now many of them do, showing the strings of digits being dialed, the
duration of an active call, Caller ID information, etc.
Wireless technology platforms and the size and text capabilities of
wireless terminals are shifting rapidly. Speech
technology costs are plummeting, making their inclusion in lower cost devices
more and more feasible. These
changes have had positive and negative implications for their accessibility.
Missing even parts of these shifts would seriously jeopardize the value
of a Market Monitoring Report.
As was pointed out repeatedly by our
industry contacts, the information contained in this Report began becoming
obsolete as soon as it was collected. Companies
change, update, and introduce new models constantly, and it is as unsafe for
consumers to be guided in their purchases by outdated information as it is
unfair for regulators to use that information for their purposes.
We reflected this awareness in our inclusion of a date on each
product’s data sheet.
We make the following recommendations
regarding the frequency of the Report:
1. Formal, paper Reports should appear
at least annually. The need for the
greater range of distribution and publicity of a hard copy will continue for the
2. Electronically published updates
should appear at least bi-monthly, using the most current information available
from companies, consumers, and researchers.
These updates should focus on changes to models and the introduction of
new product types. Materials should
be drawn from a wide variety of industry, consumer, researcher, and government
We understand that resource limitations
may govern the extent to which the information can be kept absolutely current
and widely distributed. We
especially support the concept the Access Board referred to in its Final Rule,
working cooperatively on the Market Monitoring Report with NIDRR and private
organizations interested in supporting the effort.
Some companies and trade associations
have begun to collect and publicize information about product accessibility and
compatibility (see Appendix J). Much
of this information is available electronically.
It is reasonable to assume that this information will be kept current and
As a reference source for consumers,
industry-based collections promise to be excellent, because they can provide all
the product information a consumer may want, which certainly goes beyond just
their accessibility information. These
sites often include pictures, full descriptions, and technical specifications.
Importantly, they may also link to e-commerce opportunities, or allow the
consumer to identify a nearby retail source.
We recommend that all Market Monitoring
Report information and publications be integrated as fully as possible with
these external industry sources, such as allowing links between the Access Board
site and corporate sites dedicated to telecommunications accessibility.
Encouraging this level of attention to accessibility and compatibility
should be a goal of the Access Board. It
will perform a valuable service to those in industry who support accessibility
by helping companies coordinate internally.
We recognize that there may be
administrative injunctions against some forms of these suggested connections,
but we believe that suitable solutions can be found.
Currently the MMR is reactive: it is
designed to collect information on what is already “out there” in the
market, and analyze to what extent it meets the needs of consumers with
disabilities as expressed in the Access Board Guidelines.
However, experts in the field have often remarked that access activities
are more effective if they enter the design process as early as possible. This is the intention of Guidelines 1193.23(a) and (b)
regarding product development processes, market research, pilots and trials,
cooperation with disability-related organizations, and product testing.
(These design processes are not reported on here.)
One way of providing proactive
information to industry, consumers, and regulators is to scan the technology
horizon for signs of new products, whether they are large-scale changes to the
designs of existing Product Types, or emerging new Product Types.
“Early warning” of potential access problems will provide designers
with time to build in solutions. Similarly,
“early promise” of mainstream solutions to existing, difficult access
problems, especially changes in the “achievability” of certain solutions,
will help consumers plan their purchases and inform regulators of emerging
solutions that may finesse contentious proceedings and allow them to economize
We recommend that a significant portion
of future market monitoring activities be addressed towards prediction and
prevention for the purposes of guiding industry away from access problems and
towards access solutions in their mainstream products.
Average consumers (that is,
non-technophiles) care less about the products they use per
se than they do about achieving their communications goals.
As long as the price and features are right, they are content to select
among the product options they have before them.
Even though not all consumers have
identical communications goals, it is possible to establish a baseline of
functions. The Consumer Price Index
uses a set of goods deemed typically purchased by average households in order to
determine changes in prices from one month to the next.
A telecommunications market-basket would include all the functions deemed
needed by an average consumer.
A telecommunications market-basket
should also parallel the changes found in the one used for the Consumer Price
Index, as consumers shift from one product type to another, or abandon the
Note that the purpose of this approach
is not to absolve any product category of its accessibility requirements. Its purpose is to allow industry, consumers, and regulators
to judge how well the access requirements of a common mix of functions – and
therefore the needs of most types of consumers – are being met.
This Report, like the Telecommunications
Access Advisory Committee Report before it, could not have been written without
the assistance of a large number of experts in telecommunications and
accessibility. These individuals
and their organizations come from industry, research centers, government, and
the consumer advocacy movement.
In order to reflect this broad expertise, we recommend that future Market Monitoring Reports draw from these sources explicitly. Certain articles and sections should be solicited from those individuals and organizations expert in those topics.