September 23, 2019
Wireless Accessibility Helps Break Down Communications Barriers for the Deaf Community
Wireless plays an important – and exciting – role in helping to break down communications barriers for those with unique accessibility needs, and the deaf community has often led the way as early adopters of wireless innovation. This week, as we join our partners in recognizing the International Week of the Deaf during Deaf Awareness Month, we want to celebrate all the ways wireless works for the millions of people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Wireless accessibility, particularly for those who are deaf and hard of hearing, has spanned multiple generations of wireless technology from text-based communication to videophones and Hearing Assistive Technologies. As wireless has evolved, it has enabled greater accessibility in aspects of everyday life for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The revolutionary capabilities for accessibility that were made possible by 4G LTE and smartphones allowed for wireless providers to deliver services with faster speeds and more capacity for voice, text and video communications. That made possible one of the wireless industry’s most significant initiatives for the deaf community: Text-to-911, which enables millions of consumers to send a text message to a 911 emergency call taker that accepts Text-to-911. This service has undoubtedly saved countless lives since wireless providers made it available nationwide in 2014. Call centers that accept text-to-911 vary from state-to-state. Consumers will receive a bounce back message if their local public service answering point doesn’t support Text-to-911, or they can check if the service is available in their area through the FCC’s 911 Master Registry.
Additionally, the replacement of TTY with Real-time Text services is helping further streamline communications for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Since 2017, CTIA’s member providers have been working to make RTT capabilities available through software or free applications, and by the end of this year, all nationwide wireless providers will offer RTT.
The exciting reality is that we’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible when we spur innovations in mobile wireless technology. The next generation of wireless, 5G, will be up to 100 times faster, connect up to 100 times more devices, and be 5 times more resilient than current networks
One example is video conferencing. With faster, more responsive networks, video conferencing will improve immensely, directly benefiting people who communicate in American Sign Language. These video applications will also allow users with various abilities to telecommute, allowing for both a more diverse workforce and a more level economic playing field for Americans with disabilities.
CTIA and its members are committed to making the latest technology and information available to people with unique accessibility needs, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing. As this industry continues to expand and become more critical to Americans every day communications needs, we’re proud to support the industry making life-changing innovations possible for the deaf community.