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July 14, 1999

Statement of FCC Chairman William E. Kennard

Re: Rules & Policies for Telecommunications Equipment & Services for People with Disabilities

Today's action represents the most significant opportunity for people with disabilities since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. In the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Congress fashioned the ADA of the Information Age. The framework we announce today is an essential step in making a meaningful difference in the lives of people with disabilities. We build upon the work of the Access Board and follow the ADA's precedent. Now, just as persons with disabilities can navigate our public streets because of the ADA's requirements for curb cuts, all our citizens can navigate the information superhighway without confronting barriers that stop them cold. Simple solutions such as big buttons on phones for the blind, phones with volume control for the deaf, talking caller ID for those who cannot see or move quickly, pagers that send TTY messages and phones with headsets for those who cannot hold the receiver, could be made available. In addition, today, we initiate a Notice of Inquiry that looks to the future. In this dynamic industry, as technology changes with the blink of an eye, we need to ensure that the future is accessible as well.

Our rules today are workable and practical and will allow industry to focus on what's really important: making its products and services accessible. Our rules give service providers and manufacturers a great deal of flexibility in determining how to best deploy their resources to carry out the statutory mandate, as long as they do all that is readily achievable and make modest changes to every product where it is easy to do so. We do not require specific documentation or filings. Indeed, we are mandating ends, not means - and we urge industry to step up and innovate to realize the accessibility goal.

We look forward to moving ahead, building from our common vision of what we must accomplish, and building to an accessible world we all can share.

- FCC -