In its last meeting under its current charter, the FCC’s Disability Advisory Committee today approved recommendations to the FCC regarding the compatibility of real-time text (RTT) with refreshable Braille displays, the integration of RTT in telecommunications relay service (TRS) operations, metrics for Internet protocol captioned telephone service (IP CTS), and access to TRS at emergency shelters.
The emergency shelter recommendation urges the FCC to extend its June ruling to allow all TRS providers to be compensated for calls by unregistered TRS users from temporary TRS devices in emergency shelters, and for the FCC to issue an annual public notice to inform emergency shelter providers as well as TRS providers and individuals that TRS calls from emergency shelters will be reimbursable if the shelters provide telecommunications services to the general public.
DAC member and Federal Emergency Management Administration official Gay Jones expressed concern that the recommendation would mandate that shelters and other emergency and disaster facilities — including FEMA disaster response centers (DRCs) — would be required to install accessible telecom equipment.
During the discussions of various proposed recommendations, FCC staff emphasized that the FCC does not have jurisdiction over the adoption of accessibility technologies by public safety answering points (PSAPs) or emergency shelters, and can only address the circumstances under which communications service providers are eligible for reimbursement from the TRS fund.
Eventually, the emergency shelter recommendation was adopted with the language referring to DRCs struck.
Regarding RTT, DAC member Al Sonnenstrahl suggested that outreach to make hearing people aware of the benefits of RTT technology — such as placing a “silent call” to 911 in domestic violence or active shooter situations — could increase demand for the service.
However, DAC member Linda Vanderloop, director–federal regulatory at AT&T, Inc., said that it is “premature” to spread the word about to hearing people before RTT is more widely in use, so that interoperability problems don’t sour them on the technology. “Once the work is done I think we will get the word out,” she said.
Another DAC member, Christian Vogler, director of Gallaudet University’s Technology Access Program, pointed out that RTT technology could speed up navigation of “telephone tree” menus, because the called party could send all the menu options in one RTT message.
The IP CTS recommendations called for the adoption of measurement methodologies by December 2019 and the adoption and definition of metrics mentioned by the FCC in its IP CTS notice of inquiry, including transcription accuracy, transcription speed, speed of answer, outages, and dropped calls. —Lynn Stanton, firstname.lastname@example.org