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Federal Communications Commission
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This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

March 9, 1998


Declaring that we need to ensure that all Americans have access to telecommunications services, FCC Chairman William Kennard said "We cannot ignore the needs of those with disabilities. We cannot create a society that leaves out the 26 million Americans with hearing disabilities or the nine million with sight disabilities or the 2.5 million Americans with speech disabilities."

He made these remarks March 8 at the 1998 Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute, sponsored by the American Foundation for the Blind and the American Council of the Blind, in Washington, DC.

He said the FCC has several responsibilities. "Access," Kennard noted, "was mandated by Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It is a broad mandate. Given the fundamental role that telecommunications has come to play in today's world, Section 255 represents the most significant opportunity for people with disabilities since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. And at the FCC we intend to fully implement it. And I am committed … to make it work."

He pointed out that denying access to telecommunications to people with disabilities not only makes it next to impossible for them to get an education, to get a job — or even to call 911. It forces those without access to be unnecessarily dependent on the rest of society, and it deprives this country of the wealth of ideas and ability that people with disabilities have.

With the demand for accessible telecommunications, Kennard said, people with disabilities have expanded employment opportunities. He noted "there is simply no industry in America with the opportunity for well-paying jobs like telecommunications. The U.S. needs 1.3 million new workers in information technology by 2006. People with disabilities can and should fill many of those jobs.

"The fact is, that if we do things right, the burgeoning world of telecommunications should make it easier for those with disabilities to have meaningful, well-paid jobs. More and more, people will not have to hop in a car and drive twenty miles to the office. They'll be able to work at home. More and more, the jobs in the 21st Century will belong not to those who use their brawn but their brain."

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