Technology and Disability Policy Highlights - August 2018

With the congressional recess occurring in August, this issues’ legislative section includes disability law related activities that occurred over the summer. For example, the Commission on Disability Rights brought Resolution 116C to the American Bar Association (ABA) House of Delegates. Resolution 116C advises that Title II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) be expanded in its interpretation of discrimination of people with disabilities to be inclusive of digital “places,” devices, and applications. Also, the week before the congressional recess, Senator Bob Casey [D-PA] introduced the Office of Disability Policy Act of 2018 [S. 3261], “To establish the Office of Disability Policy in the legislative branch.” The work of the Office would be to track and analyze proposed legislation to determine its potential effectiveness, possible unintended consequences, and likely impacts and outcomes for people with disabilities.

In the regulatory space, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a Public Notice requesting stakeholder input on Tentative Findings for the 2018 Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) Biennial Report [CG Docket No. 10-213]. They reported on the state of industry compliance with accessibility provisions of the CVAA noting areas where progress has been made, as well as indicating where work needs to be done. Regarding the latter, the accessibility of new and emerging technologies was deemed promising, but design considerations will have to carefully consider people with disabilities to fulfill the promise.

In Wireless RERC news, John Bricout, PhD, who is the director of the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (UMN), and his collaborators at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) are investigating the socially assistive capabilities of "Pepper," a versatile 4-foot tall humanoid robot. They found that increases in human-robot social engagement were related to discernible drops in depression following three-week interactions with Pepper. This work paved the way for developmental aspects of the project that Bricout and his UTA collaborators are currently pursuing on Pepper as a respite robot for older caregivers with adult children who have developmental disabilities.

Recruitment for the Survey of User Needs is ongoing. To inform the inclusive development of wireless technologies and services, we are collecting data on people with disabilities’ user experiences and expectations. Take the survey online at http://bit.ly/2018UserNeedsSurvey. Scan the QR Code to open the survey on your mobile device.

This issue also includes news about indoor wayfinding, the CDC’s new disability prevalence statistics, Google’s native hearing aid support, smart tags, a Braille standard, and more.

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