2003 Conference Proceedings

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Section 255: Can Today's Cellular Telephone Meet the Challenge?

Caesar Eghtesadi, Ph.D.
President, Tech for All, Inc.
603 , Bashford Lane, #4
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: 703-519-1836
Website: http://www.tech-for-all.com 
Email: keghtesadi@aol.com

Janina Sajka, Director, Technology Research & Development
American Foundation for the Blind
Governmental Relations Group
Suite 400, 820 First St. N.E.
Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 408-0200
Fax: (202) 289-7880
Email: janina@afb.net

The U.S. Congress amended U.S. telecommunications law in 1996 and enacted Section 255 to ensure that new telephones would be designed for use by people with disabilities--including people who are blind or visually impaired. Although not every product is expected to have all the same access features, Section 255 requires companies to do all that is "readily achievable"--that is, do what they can without much difficulty or expense--to make each product or service accessible. It is now 7 years since the law was enacted, and 3 years since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unanimously adopted regulations implementing this law. Yet, consumers who are blind or visually impaired often seem to feel the law has done little to make telephones more accessible. Could manufacturers have done more? Can they do more today with telephones now on the market? In particular, are there sufficient technological resources available on today's telephones to support Text To Speech (TTS) interfaces--the feature blind and visually impaired people seem most to want and need?

In this presentation we report on our in depth technological investigation of 3 cellular telephone models. How much processing power is available in these units? How much RAM? What resident software applications are essential to the task of telephony, and which resident applications are unessential to that task? In other words, could manufacturers be doing more today to meet their obligations under the law to serve consumers who are blind or visually impaired?

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