July 2016 marked the 26th anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). While progress has been made in inclusive and equitable access to social and civic life, encumbrances still remain. In a Presidential Proclamation, President Barack Obama addressed the musts, or imperatives of access and inclusion: “We must continue increasing graduation rates for students with disabilities to give them every chance to receive the education and training they need to pursue their dreams. We must make the information and communication technologies we rely on accessible for all people, and ensure their needs are considered and incorporated as we advance the tools of modern life. And we must keep fighting for more consistent and effective enforcement of the ADA in order to prevent discrimination in public services and accommodations.” In the regulatory arena, efforts to prevent discrimination came in the form of a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging them to ensure consumer protection and high-quality services as the Commission moves toward a new streamlined technology transition process. As service providers begin to supplant the use of copper in favor of fiber and the Public Switched Telephone Network (PTSN) transitions to Internet Protocol-based communications technologies, the letter’s signees stress the importance of ensuring consumers are informed and that access to programs like Lifeline not be interrupted as a result of the tech transition.
In Wireless RERC news, related to technology transitions, some of the journal papers presented at the Envisioning Inclusive FUTURES Summit have been published online in the Futures journal. The Summit focused on 1) key social, economic, political and technological forces at play in the migration from legacy, analog technologies to mobile, digital technologies, and 2) the consequential futures for people with disabilities. Available papers include:
- Scientific eventuality or science fiction: The future of people with different abilities
- The future of accessibility in disaster conditions: How wireless technologies will transform the life cycle of emergency management
- Envisioning the future for older adults: Autonomy, health, well-being, and social connectedness with technology support
- Envisioning inclusive futures: Technology-based assistive sensory and action substitution