Washington, DC, April 24, 2007: The Hearing Loss Association is delighted to announce it has reached a consensus agreement with the wireless industry on increasing the accessibility of wireless telephones over the next few years.
This consensus has enormous significance for people with hearing loss who use wireless phones. It is the first time since the struggle to achieve hearing- aid-compatible (HAC) telephones began in 1973 that consumers and industry have come to consensus without federal oversight to achieve agreement.
The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) has sought to find common ground with industry to come up with rules that took into consideration the technical challenges facing industry, but, at the same time, addressed the accessibility needs of hearing aid and cochlear implant users.
Brenda Battat, associate executive director of the Hearing Loss Association of America and who represented HLAA at the negotiation table, had this to say: "Based on experience with mandated regulations that are not complied with or enforced, it made more sense to work together with industry to develop rules that they committed to comply with up front, but that also gave consumers ever increasing access to wireless telephones."
The Hearing Loss Association of America's approach was to increase the number of telecoil-compatible phones for those consumers who have the most hearing loss; to ensure that consumers will benefit from new technology from the outset; that research be conducted on how to improve audio output and volume control on telephones; that consumers can choose from accessible telephones with different prices, features, and styles; that there be increased availability of M-rated phones for all people with hearing loss and that the portfolio of communication accessible phones is kept fresh from year to year.
The Hearing Loss Association of America is the nation's largest membership and advocacy organization for people with hearing loss. HLAA works at the national level to impact public policy that benefits its members and all people with hearing loss. Executive Director Terry D Portis, Ed.D., commented, "As communications technology advances, it is important that people with hearing loss not be left behind. Mobile communications devices are critical for home, community, workplace, and especially for emergency situations. We are pleased to see this consensus agreement and the positive impact it will have."
The proposal was presented to the FCC on Monday, April 23, 2007. The FCC has taken the proposal under advisement and is awaiting further input on a few data points. A press conference was held April 24th at ATIS headquarters in Washington, D.C., to announce the agreement to the international media who reports on the telecommunications industry.
ATIS President and CEO Susan Miller provided opening comments. Experts on the agenda who represented their work on the agreement were: Tom Goode, ATIS general counsel; Harold Salters, T- Mobile; Scott Kelly, Motorola; Brenda Battat, Hearing Loss Association of America; and Karen Peltz Strauss, RERC.
Comments from manufacturers clearly voiced they felt this was a successful effort. Scott Kelly, Motorola, co- chair of the ATIS HAC Incubator WG10, said: "It makes sense to work with industry and get a commitment up front. We believe we have an agreement between consumers and industry to provide more wireless phones that will work for people with hearing loss. Harold Salters, T-Mobile, co-chair, voiced his enthusiasm saying "they are vitally pleased to be part of the consensus; it is win-win for all."
ATIS President and CEO Susan Miller said, "ATIS is pleased with the outcome of the consensus agreement and is equally pleased in the role it has played in facilitating this important proposal.
The Hearing Loss Association of America, together with Gallaudet University, the RERC on Hearing Enhancement, and the Alexander Graham Bell Association for Deaf and Hard of Hearing negotiated with the key wireless service providers and manufacturers from November 2006 to March 2007 in Working Group 10 of the Alliance for Telecommunication Industry Solutions (ATIS) AISP.4- HAC Incubator.
About the Hearing Loss Association of America
The Hearing Loss Association of America, founded in 1979 under the name of Self Help for Hard of Hearing People, opens the world of communication to people with hearing loss through information, education, advocacy and support. It publishes the bimonthly Hearing Loss Magazine and holds annual conventions. More information can be found at www.hearingloss.org. The national headquarters is located at 7910 Woodmont Avenue, Suite 1200, Bethesda, MD 20184. HLAA has chapters and state organizations across the country.