Saturday, August 22, 2015

FCC Plans Open Source Accessibility Platform

According to an August 20, 2015 press release, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will "offer an open source video access platform that will enable Americans who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind or who have a speech disability to communicate directly with federal agencies and businesses in American Sign Language (ASL)."

The press release describes the system as follows:

The platform will provide open source applications for mobile and desktop operating systems which – along with direct video calling – will allow for text and high-quality voice communications. In addition, the FCC will provide applications that relay service users can download on their smartphones or desktops in order to communicate directly with agency representatives. An ASL-user will be able to click on who they want to talk to and the call will be connected directly to a customer service center staffed by, most commonly, another person who is deaf or hard of hearing who is fluent in ASL. The Commission plans to roll out a beta version later this year with final release schedule for spring of 2016.

The FCC’s platform will provide the basic building blocks that are common to any IP-based application. The platform also will establish a set of interoperability standards to be used by today’s two-way video communications providers, ensuring seamless usability while maintaining freedom of choice for all ASL users. Giving applications developers open access to source code will enable them to provide apps with easy interoperability for those receiving calls.

Under the leadership of Chairman Tom Wheeler, the FCC has become a leader in using "interactive video to allow deaf and hard of hearing callers direct access to ASL consumer support." Other agencies such as the Small Business Administration, the Census Bureau, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the City of New York are already following or planning to follow the FCC's example.