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Americans with Disabilities Act: Updated For The 21st Century

In the year that is the twentieth anniversary of the landmark American with Disabilities Act, President Barack Obama has taken a huge step for the advancement of equal rights and equal access to technology for disabled Americans . On October 8, 2010 the bill that carried overwhelming bipartisan support, the "21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act", was signed into law.

The law will give Americans with disabilities equal access to many of the things those without the same disabilities take for granted; from email and cell phones to working certain commands on the DVD player. Up until now many Americans that are hearing or visually impaired have been at a loss and not been able to full benefit from advancements in technology and communications.

With the signing of the "21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act" the playing field will begin to become a bit more even for these folks too. As President Obama stated,

"So together, these changes are about guaranteeing equal access, equal opportunity, and equal respect for every American. "

Equal Access, Equal Opportunity, and Equal Respect for those with Hearing Loss

Hearing loss and cellphones
Communication technology to improve for those with hearing loss thanks to new law

Until now many with hearing and visual disabilities have not been able to use many of the tools the rest of the United States citizens, and the world for that matter, use on a daily basis.

This is of crucial importance especially now during a tough economic time. Improved access will help to give all Americans equal access to the same jobs and information so commonly found using online and mobile communication devices today.

After all, how many Americans on a job search can easily provide their cell phone number on a job application and receive call backs even when they're not at home? Until now this wasn't possible for many people with hearing loss. With these new provisions being required for cell phones (and other communication devices) the hearing and visually impaired will have the same ability to communicate with others.

The law will give improved access for individuals with hearing or visual impairments to the following:

  • Smart phonesInternet
  • Web browsers on mobile phones
  • Text messaging on mobile phones
  • Email alerts on mobile phones
  • DVD players
  • Cable television guides

It will also ensure users of Internet-enabled mobile phones who wear hearing aids improved access to technology.

In addition the law requires that cable television stations provide more extensive video descriptions as well as making program guides and selection menus usable by those with vision or hearing loss.

This will allow the hearing impaired to have a richer, more real-life experience during many of these programs originally designed for people with no hearing or visual impairments.

The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act will give $10 million a year to assistive technology for the deaf and blind who meet low income criteria. This fund will help these low income disabled American buy accessible Internet and telecom stations they previously couldn't afford.

This law should allow more opportunities for the disabled in the workplace, classrooms, and everywhere else they want to go.

A Wake Up Call for Government: Hearing Loss DOES Affect Quality of Life

This law is not only a huge step in that it allows more access to vital technology for individuals previously unable due to hearing and vision disabilities, it also marks the acknowledgement by the government of the growing problem of hearing loss in the population of the United States.

Up until now it's seemed that the government has turned a blind eye (no pun intended) to the hearing loss problem in this country. Hearing loss is the third leading health problem amongst senior citizens. Yet despite this, Medicare, one of the main providers of all seniors health care, doesn't provide compensation or coverage for hearing aids.

Disabled Americans to Enjoy Better Communication in the Communication Age

But now that the tide has begun to change it's hopeful that many of the previously inaccessible parts of the world everyone else has enjoyed for years is finally opening up to the hearing and visually impaired.

The Internet is not only a source of income for many today (from finding a new job to selling a rare coin on eBay) it is a vital place for communication and connection both professionally and socially.

Many Americans without disabilities have grown very accustomed to using these tools in daily life. They couldn't possibly imagine not having Facebook, Twitter or their emails to connect with others.

Social marketing is raved about as the new way to market your business as well as connect with old friends and family living thousands of miles away. But sadly those with hearing or visual disabilities have been unintentionally denied access to this important form of communication. Not any more!

The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act is sure to prove to be the greatest step towards equal rights for those with disabilities in the last few decades.

Now those formerly left out in the cold, can join the millions worldwide using these technologies to better their lives in immeasurable ways. Coming in the month of National Disability Awareness this law couldn't come at a better time for anyone with a hearing or visual disability.

For more information on hearing loss, visit a hearing professional near you.

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