It has taken a lot of deliberate effort to extend the broadband revolution to all Americans. And in recent years, the FCC has been particularly diligent in making sure that disabled people have a chance to share in the wealth of innovations that many of us take for granted.
This December 19 at a Washington presentation ceremony, the FCC handed out the Awards for Advancement in Accessibility (Chairman's AAA). These are given for innovations that improve the lives of the disabled - frequently benefiting those around them as well.
The AAA is a project of the FCC's Accessibility and Innovation Initiative (A&I Initiative) which "seeks to facilitate dialogue among industry, assistive technology companies, app developers, government representatives, and consumers to allow stakeholders to share best practices and solutions for accessible communications technologies."
The 2012 awards were given in six different categories:
- Consumer Empowerment Information
- Mobile Applications
- Civic Participation Solutions
- Education: College or University
- Video Programming
- Geo-Location Solutions
For instance, the winner in Civic Participation Solutions, the Clemson University Human-Centered Computing Lab, devised a universally designed voting machine which "allows people with visual, hearing, reading, or dexterity disabilities to privately and independently vote using the same voting machine as everyone else."
And while there are literally hundreds of real-time apps that track mass transit for the user, Tiramisu Transit designed one for everyone. The Tiramisu app "crowd-sources information on bus schedules, timing, and space availability, was written to be compliant with accessibility guidelines of various platforms and is intended to benefit people with and without disabilities."
The WGBH National Center for Accessible Media won in the category of mobile applications. Its Media Access Mobile "enhances the user experience for multimedia presentations at cultural institutions, museums, exhibits, or other venues by providing synchronized text for people who are deaf or hard of hearing and synchronized audio description for people who are blind or visually impaired."
Most of us take tuning our radios for granted, but the blind and visually impaired can't do so. Consequently, a trio of innovators from Project StAR produced Accessible Radio 2012/The Narrator which provides "simple, tactile controls that talk so that people who are blind or visually impaired can control the user interfaces on their radio."
The complete list of winners is available here. Moreover, for those in or visiting Washington, the winning designs are on display at FCC headquarters through the end of the year.
Genachowski Honors Innovators In Accessibility (FCC, Dec. 19, 2012)
Genachowski remarks, Chairman's Awards for Advancement in Accessibility (FCC, Dec. 18, 2012)