Technology and Disability Policy Highlights – Final Issue 2021

Date of Publication: 
2021 October

In September, the FCC celebrated Lifeline Awareness Week from the 20th through the 24th to bring attention to the Lifeline program and increase enrollment of eligible households. While in August, the Senate passed a $550 billion bill entitled the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. In the Act, there are specific federal provisions related to broadband. This newsletter highlights the six major provisions that the bill outlines to improve broadband and wireless connectivity in the United States. Of note, many of the provisions aim to decrease the digital divide and offer substantial funding to achieve these goals. In efforts to decrease disparities in emergency response, the House of Representatives saw the introduction of the  Information Sharing and Advanced Communication Alerting Act (ISAAC) [H.R. 5208]. This legislation seeks to establish a requirement for the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC)’s Technological Advisory Council to produce a report on the feasibility of establishing a 9-1-1 disability alerting system (DAS). H.R. 5208 directs the FCC to explore a process that permits users to create, within DAS, a profile associated with an individual with a disability containing pertinent information such as whether the individual is nonverbal, can be combative under stress or anxiety, or is a wandering risk. 

In other regulatory news, the FCC released statements about two new programs related to digital equity. To address affordable communications, in a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking  [CG Docket No. 12-375], the FCC is extending its request for public input on the functionally equivalent access and affordability of telecommunications for incarcerated persons with disabilities. This month also marks the release of the FCC’s broadband map, which demonstrates connectivity and broadband access by the four major wireless carriers across the country.

In Wireless RERC news, the Proceedings of the Wireless RERC 2021 State of Technology Forum is now available online. The Forum Proceedings is an interactive document with papers, presentations, videos, and bios from the two-day event. Further, it opens with a summation of the event and closes with a chapter on key activities to pursue to ensure inclusion is always at the forefront of wireless technology, design, development, and deployment.

Funded by Wireless RERC, the Smart Home Helper (SHH) app, developed by The IDEAL Group, was released on the Google Play Store. SHH is a free Android app that enables individuals who are nonverbal and individuals with speech disabilities such as stuttering, apraxia, and dysarthria to issue verbal commands to voice-activated smart home devices using Android’s Text-to-Speech engine. SHH enables users to issue smart home commands in any one of 63 languages/dialects. Smart home voice commands can easily be created, organized, and shared with other app users.

Other items of interest include a study examining the communities served by the BeltLine and whether it can be used as an emergency management asset. (Take the Atlanta BeltLine Survey)

This issue also includes news about the latest Android accessibility updates, assistive technology,  Spectrum Innovation Zone, AI, Accessible Kiosks, Evinced, MakerSpace, Voice Commands, and more.


The contents of this website were developed under a grant from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR grant number 90RE5025-01-00). NIDILRR is a Center within the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents of this website do not necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR, ACL, HHS, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.