Patrick D. Cannon,
Chair, Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board.

For the reasons set forth in the preamble, the Board proposes to add part 1193 to Chapter XI of title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations to read as follows:

PART 1193 — TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT ACCESSIBILITY GUIDELINES

Subpart A — General

Sec.

1193.1 Purpose.

1193.2 Scoping.

1193.3 Definitions.

Subpart B —General Requirements

1193.21 Accessibility and compatibility.

1193.23 Product design, development, and evaluation.

1193.25 Information, documentation, and training.

1193.27 Information pass through.

1193.29 Prohibited reduction of accessibility, usability, and compatibility.

Subpart C —Requirements for Accessibility

1193.31 Accessibility.

1193.33 Redundancy and selectability.

1193.35 Input, controls, and mechanical functions.

1193.37 Output, displays, and control functions.

Subpart D —Requirements for Compatibility With Peripheral Devices and Specialized Customer Premises Equipment

1193.41 Compatibility.

Appendix to Part 1193 — Advisory Guidance

The material from the appendix has been incorporated within each rule.

Attachment A:  Cover Materials for the NPRM

Attachment B:  Background

Attachment C:  Comments from the NPRM Regarding the Telecommunication Access Advisory Committee (TAAC) Recommendations

Attachment D:  Regulatory Process Matters

Authority: 47 U.S.C. 255(e).


Subpart A — General

§ 1193.1 Purpose.

This part provides guidelines for accessibility, usability, and compatibility of telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment covered by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (47 U.S.C. 255).

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§ 1193.2 Scoping.

This part provides requirements for accessibility, usability, and compatibility of new products and existing products which undergo substantial change or upgrade, or for which new releases are distributed. This part does not apply to minor or insubstantial changes to existing products that do not affect functionality.

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§ 1193.3 Definitions.

Terms used in this part shall have the specified meaning unless otherwise stated. Words, terms and phrases used in the singular include the plural, and use of the plural includes the singular.

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BEGINNING OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

With a few exceptions discussed below, the definitions in this section are the same as the definitions used in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

END OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

Accessible
Telecommunications equipment or customer premises equipment which comply with the requirements of subpart C of this part.

BEGINNING OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

Subpart C contains the minimum requirements for accessibility. Therefore, the term accessible is defined as meeting the provisions of Subpart C.

END OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

Alternate formats.
Alternate formats may include, but are not limited to, Braille, ASCII text, large print, and audio cassette recording.

BEGINNING OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

Certain product information is required to be made available in alternate formats to be usable by individuals with various disabilities. Common forms of alternate formats are Braille, large print, ASCII text, and audio cassettes. Further discussion of alternate formats is provided in section 1193.25 and in the appendix.

END OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

Alternate modes.
Alternate modes may include, but are not limited to, voice, fax, relay service, TTY, Internet posting, captioning, text-to-speech synthesis, and audio description.

BEGINNING OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

Alternate modes are different means of providing information to users of products including product documentation and information about the status or operation of controls. For example, if a manufacturer provides product instructions on a video cassette, captioning would be required. Further discussion of alternate modes is provided in sections 1193.25, 1193.31 through 1193.37, and in the appendix.

END OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

Compatible.
Telecommunications equipment or customer premises equipment which comply with the requirements of Subpart D.

BEGINNING OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

Subpart D contains the minimum requirements for compatibility. Therefore, the term compatible is defined as meeting the provisions of Subpart D.

END OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

Customer premises equipment.
Equipment employed on the premises of a person (other than a carrier) to originate, route, or terminate telecommunications.

BEGINNING OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

This definition is taken from the Telecommunications Act. Equipment employed on the premises of a person, which can originate, route or terminate telecommunications, is customer premises equipment. "Person" is a legal term meaning an individual, corporation, or organization.

Customer premises equipment can also include certain specialized customer premises equipment which are directly connected to the telecommunications network and which can originate, route, or terminate telecommunications. Equipment with such capabilities is covered by section 255(b) and is required to meet the accessibility requirements of Subpart C, if readily achievable, or to be compatible with other specialized customer premises equipment and peripheral devices according to Subpart D, if readily achievable. Customer premises equipment may also include wireless sets. (Note 1)

NOTE 1:  See Declaratory Ruling, DA 93-122 , 8 FCC Rcd 6171, 6174 (Com. Car. Bur. 1993) (TOCSIA Declaratory Ruling), recon. pending (finding that definition of "premises" includes "locations" such as airplanes, trains and rental cars, despite the fact that they are mobile).

END OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

Manufacturer.
A manufacturer of telecommunications equipment or customer premises equipment.

BEGINNING OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

This definition is provided as a shorthand reference for a manufacturer of telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment.

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Peripheral devices.
Devices employed in connection with telecommunications equipment or customer premises equipment to translate, enhance, or otherwise transform telecommunications into a form accessible to individuals with disabilities.

BEGINNING OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

Peripheral devices are referenced in section 255(d) of the Act, as equipment commonly used by individuals with disabilities to achieve access to telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment. No definition is provided in the Act but the term peripheral devices commonly refers to audio amplifiers, ring signal lights, some TTYs, refreshable Braille translators, text-to-speech synthesizers and similar devices. These devices must be connected to a telephone or other customer premises equipment to enable an individual with a disability to originate, route, or terminate telecommunications. Peripheral devices cannot perform these functions on their own.

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Product.
Telecommunications equipment or customer premises equipment.

BEGINNING OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

This definition is provided as a shorthand reference for telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment.

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Readily achievable.
Easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.
[go to "Specialized Customer Premises Equipment"]

BEGINNING OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

The Telecommunications Act defines "readily achievable" as having the same meaning as in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) but the ADA applies the concept in an entirely different context than the Telecommunications Act. The ADA applies the term to the removal of architectural barriers in an existing building or facility, whereas the Telecommunications Act applies the term to the design, development and fabrication of new telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment. The factors which apply in the ADA context may not be appropriate here. Section 301(9) of the ADA defines readily achievable as follows:

"The term "readily achievable" means easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense. In determining whether an action is readily achievable, factors to be considered include:

(A) the nature and cost of the action needed under this Act;

(B) the overall financial resources of the facility or facilities involved in the action; the number of persons employed at such facility; the effect on expenses and resources, or the impact otherwise of such action upon the operation of the facility;

(C) the overall financial resources of the covered entity; the overall size of the business of a covered entity with respect to the number of its employees; the number, type, and location of its facilities; and

(D) the type of operation or operations of the covered entity, including the composition, structure, and functions of the workforce of such entity; the geographic separateness, administrative or fiscal relationship of the facility or facilities in question to the covered entity." (42 U.S.C. 12181(9))

Since the ADA definition is intended to apply to the removal of architectural barriers in existing buildings and facilities, the factors relate to the cost of alterations, the financial resources of the particular entity and its relationship to a parent entity, and the corporate structure which might affect the allocation of resources.

In implementing title III of the ADA, the Department of Justice (DOJ) adopted a slightly different wording for its definition, based, in part, on the extensive legislative history of the ADA. The DOJ definition of readily achievable is as follows:

"Readily achievable means easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense. In determining whether an action is readily achievable factors to be considered include—

(1) The nature and cost of the action needed under this part;

(2) The overall financial resources of the site or sites involved in the action; the number of persons employed at the site; the effect on expenses and resources; legitimate safety requirements that are necessary for safe operation, including crime prevention measures; or the impact otherwise of the action upon the operation of the site;

(3) The geographic separateness, and the administrative or fiscal relationship of the site or sites in question to any parent corporation or entity;

(4) If applicable, the overall financial resources of any parent corporation or entity; the overall size of the parent corporation or entity with respect to the number of its employees; the number, type, and location of its facilities; and

(5) If applicable, the type of operation or operations of any parent corporation or entity, including the composition, structure, and functions of the workforce of the parent corporation or entity." (28 CFR 36.104)

The DOJ definition makes clear the connection between parent entity and subdivision and includes safety considerations related to the possible disruption of construction or the inability to comply with the strict requirements of an accessibility standard.

Substituting "manufacturer" for "building", "facility", or "site" makes partial sense but does not clarify how the factors would be applied to the telecommunications industry. For one thing, the DOJ rule makes it clear that, in evaluating whether a particular structural modification is readily achievable, the covered entity starts with the alteration provisions of the ADA Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). Those provisions include the concept of "technical infeasibility" which relates to effects on the existing building's structural frame. The factors in either of the above definitions do not explicitly include technical infeasibility. The TAAC, therefore, considered explicitly including the concept of "technologically feasible" as a factor in determining what is readily achievable.

The definition of readily achievable in section 1193.3 includes only the first phrase from the ADA definition. The Board intends to include an appendix section in the final rule containing a discussion of factors for determining when an action is readily achievable. The FCC asked questions in its Notice of Inquiry regarding the readily achievable factors and their application to the telecommunications industry and intends to issue guidance on the application of the readily achievable limitation in the telecommunications context. The Board will coordinate its rulemaking with any FCC proceeding.

Question 2: The Board seeks comment regarding the definition of readily achievable in the telecommunications context. (a) What factors translate from the ADA or DOJ definition of readily achievable, which address the built environment, to the telecommunications industry? (b) Both the ADA and the DOJ definitions specify that overall resources and overall size of a covered entity are factors in determining whether an action is readily achievable. Should a large company be expected to provide more accessibility in its products than a small company with limited production capacity or narrow design experience? (c) If small companies are expected to provide less accessibility in its products than large companies, would small companies have a competitive advantage in the marketplace? (d) Is the concept of "technologically feasible" an appropriate factor? (e) In the ADA context, "resources" refer only to financial resources but are there other resources in the telecommunications context, such as information, design expertise, knowledge of specific manufacturing techniques or procedures, or availability of certain kinds of technological solutions? (f) Finally, are there other factors to be considered in defining "readily achievable" in these guidelines? Since the success of these guidelines depends largely upon the term "readily achievable" the Board is concerned that this term is appropriately applied. Further discussion of these issues is provided in section 1193.21.

END OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

Specialized customer premises equipment.
(See Peripheral devices)
[go to "Telecommunications"]

BEGINNING OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

Section 255(d) of the Telecommunications Act requires that whenever it is not readily achievable to make a product accessible, a manufacturer shall ensure that the equipment is compatible with existing peripheral devices or specialized customer premises equipment commonly used by individuals with disabilities to achieve access, if readily achievable. The Telecommunications Act does not define specialized customer premises equipment. As discussed above, the Act defines customer premises equipment as "equipment employed on the premises of a person (other than a carrier) to originate, route, or terminate telecommunications". The Board views specialized customer premises equipment as a subset of customer premises equipment.

The Act and its legislative history do not make it clear whether Congress intended to treat specialized customer premises equipment differently from peripheral devices. The Act appears to treat this equipment in the same manner as peripheral devices. However, certain specialized equipment, such as direct-connect TTYs, can originate, route, or terminate telecommunications without connection to anything else. Equipment which can independently originate, route or terminate telecommunications is customer premises equipment and must meet the requirements of Subpart C, if readily achievable. Where accessibility is not readily achievable, customer premises equipment (including specialized customer premises equipment) must be compatible with other devices.

If specialized customer premises equipment can originate, route, or terminate telecommunications, it appears that for purposes of these guidelines, the equipment should be treated the same as customer premises equipment.

Question 3: The Board seeks comment on how specialized customer premises equipment should be treated. Should this equipment be treated the same as peripheral devices or treated differently than peripheral devices?

END OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

Telecommunications.
The transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user's choosing, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received.
Telecommunications equipment.
Equipment, other than customer premises equipment, used by a carrier to provide telecommunications services, and includes software integral to such equipment (including upgrades).
Telecommunications service.
The offering of telecommunications for a fee directly to the public, or to such classes of users as to be effectively available directly to the public, regardless of the facilities used.
TTY.
An abbreviation for teletypewriter. Machinery or equipment that employs interactive text based communications through the transmission of coded signals across the standard telephone network. TTYs can include, for example, devices known as TDDs (telecommunication display devices or telecommunication devices for deaf persons) or computers with special modems. TTYs are also called text telephones.

BEGINNING OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

This definition is taken from the ADA Accessibility Guidelines, primarily for consistency with other statutes and regulations.

END OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

Usable.
Means that individuals with disabilities have access to instructions, product information (including accessible feature information), documentation, and technical support functionally equivalent to that provided to individuals without disabilities.

BEGINNING OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

This definition is included to convey the important point that products which have been designed to be accessible are usable only if an individual has adequate information on how to operate the product. Further discussion of usability is provided in section 1193.25.

END OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

Subpart B — General Requirements

§ 1193.21 Accessibility and compatibility.

Where readily achievable, telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment shall comply with the requirements of subpart C of this part. Where it is not readily achievable to comply with subpart C of this part, telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment shall comply with the requirements of subpart D of this part, if readily achievable.

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§ 1193.23 Product design, development, and evaluation.

(a) Manufacturers shall evaluate the accessibility and usability of telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment and shall incorporate such evaluation throughout product design, development, fabrication, and delivery, as early and consistently as possible. Manufacturers shall identify barriers to accessibility and usability as part of such a product design and development process.

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(b) In developing such a process, manufacturers shall consider the following factors, as appropriate:

(1) Including individuals with disabilities in target populations of market research;

(2) Including individuals with disabilities in product design, testing, pilot demonstrations, and product trials;

(3) Working cooperatively with appropriate disability-related organizations; and

(4) Making reasonable efforts to validate any unproven access solutions through testing with individuals with disabilities or with appropriate disability-related organizations that have established expertise with individuals with disabilities.

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§ 1193.25 Information, documentation, and training.

(a) Manufacturers shall provide access to information and documentation including user guides, installation guides for end-user installable devices, and product support communications, regarding both the product in general and the accessibility features of the product, at no additional charge; and shall take such other steps as necessary including:

(1) Providing a description of the accessibility and compatibility features of the product upon request, including, as needed, in alternate formats or alternate modes;
(2) Providing end-user product documentation in alternate formats or alternate modes upon request; and
(3) Ensuring usable customer support and technical support, upon request, in the call centers and service centers which support their products.

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BEGINNING OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

Paragraph (a) of this section requires that manufacturers provide access to information and documentation. This information and documentation includes user guides, installation guides, and product support communications, regarding both the product in general and the accessibility features of the product. Information and documentation should be provided to people with disabilities at no additional charge. Alternate formats or alternate modes of this information is also required to be available. Manufacturers are also required to ensure usable customer support and technical support, upon request, in the call centers and service centers, which support their products.

The specific alternate format or mode to be provided is that which is usable by the customer. Obviously, it does no good to provide documentation in Braille to someone who does not read it. While the user's preference is first priority, manufacturers are not expected to stock copies of all materials in all possible alternate formats and may negotiate with users to supply information in other formats. For example, Braille is extremely bulky and can only be read by a minority of individuals who are blind. Audio cassettes are usable by more people but are difficult for users to find a specific section or to skip from one section to the next. Documentation provided on disk in ASCII format can often be accessed by computers with appropriate software, but is worthless if the information sought is how to set up the computer in the first place. Of course, if instructions are provided by videotape, appropriate audio description would be needed for persons who are blind and captions would be needed for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Ensuring usable customer support may mean providing a TTY number, since the usual complicated voice menu systems cannot be used by individuals who are deaf. Also, if such menu systems require quick responses, they may not be usable by persons with other disabilities. See the appendix for guidance on how to provide information in alternate formats and modes.

END OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

(b) Manufacturers shall include in general product information the name and telephone number of a contact point for obtaining the information required by paragraph (a) of this section.

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(c) Manufacturers shall provide employee training appropriate to an employee's function. In developing, or incorporating existing training programs, consideration shall be given to the following factors:

(1) Accessibility requirements of individuals with disabilities;
(2) Means of communicating with individuals with disabilities;
(3) Commonly used adaptive technology used with the manufacturer's products;
(4) Designing for accessibility; and
(5) Solutions for accessibility and compatibility.

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BEGINNING OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

Paragraph (c) requires manufacturers to provide employee training appropriate to an employee's function. In developing, or incorporating existing training programs, consideration shall be given to the following factors: accessibility requirements of individuals with disabilities; means of communicating with individuals with disabilities; commonly used adaptive technology used with the manufacturer's products; designing for accessibility; and solutions for accessibility and compatibility.

Obviously, not every employee needs training in all factors. Designers and developers need to know about barriers and solutions. Technical support and sales personnel need to know how to communicate with individuals with disabilities and what common peripheral devices are compatible with the manufacturer's products. Other employees may need a combination of this training. No specific program is required by this section and the manufacturer is free to address the needs in whatever way it sees fit, as long as the training results in the provision of effective information.

END OF ANALYSIS FOR THIS ITEM

§ 1193.27 Information pass through.

Telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment shall pass through all codes, translation protocols, formats or any other information necessary to provide telecommunications in an accessible format. In particular, signal compression technologies shall not remove information needed for access or shall restore it upon decompression.

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§ 1193.29 Prohibited reduction of accessibility, usability, and compatibility.

No change shall be undertaken which decreases or has the effect of decreasing the accessibility, usability, and compatibility of telecommunications equipment or customer premises equipment to a level less than the requirements of this part.

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Subpart C —Requirements for Accessibility

§ 1193.31 Accessibility.

When required by subpart B of this part, telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment shall be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities and shall comply with §§1193.33, 1193.35, and 1193.37 as applicable.

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§ 1193.33 Redundancy and selectability.

Telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment shall provide redundancy such that input and output functions are available in more than one mode. Alternate input and output modes shall be selectable by the user.

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§ 1193.35 Input, controls, and mechanical functions.

Input, controls, and mechanical functions shall be locatable, identifiable, and operable through at least one mode that complies with the following:

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(a) Operable without vision. Functions shall not require user vision.

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(b) Operable with low vision. Functions shall not require user visual acuity better than 20/70, and shall not rely on audio output.

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(c) Operable with little or no color perception. Functions shall not require user color perception.

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(d) Operable without hearing. Functions shall not require user auditory perception.

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(e) Operable with limited manual dexterity. Functions shall not require fine motor control or simultaneous actions.

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(f) Operable with limited reach and strength. Functions shall be operable with limited reach and strength.

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(g) Operable without time-dependent controls. Functions shall not require a sequential response less than three seconds. Alternatively, any response time may be selected or adjusted by the user over a wide range.

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(h) Operable without speech. Functions shall not require speech.

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(i) Operable with limited cognitive skills. Functions shall minimize the cognitive, memory, language, and learning skills required of the user.

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§ 1193.37 Output, displays, and control functions.

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(a) Voice telecommunications shall comply with paragraphs (b)(9) and (b)(10) of this section.

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(b) All information necessary to operate and use the product, including text, static or dynamic images, icons, or incidental operating cues, shall be provided through at least one mode that complies with the following:

(1) Availability of visual information. Information which is presented visually shall also be available in auditory form.

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(2) Availability of visual information for low vision users. Information which is provided through a visual display shall not require user visual acuity better than 20/70, and shall not rely on audio.

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(3) Access to moving text. Text, other than text output of a TTY, which is presented in a moving fashion shall also be available in a static presentation mode at the option of the user.

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(4) Availability of auditory information. Information which is provided in auditory form shall be available in visual form and, where appropriate, in tactile form.

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(5) Availability of auditory information for people who are hard of hearing. Information which is provided in auditory form shall be available in enhanced auditory fashion (i.e., increased amplification, or increased signal-to-noise ratio).

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(6) Prevention of visually-induced seizures. Flashing visual displays and indicators shall not exceed a frequency of 3 Hz.

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(7) Availability of audio cutoff. Products which use audio output modes shall have an industry standard connector for headphones or personal listening devices (e.g., phone-like handset or earcup) which cuts off speakers when used.

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(8) Non-interference with hearing technologies. Products shall not cause interference to hearing technologies (including hearing aids, cochlear implants, and assistive listening devices) of the user or bystanders

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(9) Hearing aid coupling. Products providing auditory output by an audio transducer which is normally held up to the ear shall provide a means for effective wireless coupling to hearing aids.

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(10) Availability of enhanced audio. Products shall be equipped with volume control that provides an adjustable amplification ranging from 18-25 dB of gain.

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Subpart D —Requirements for Compatibility With Peripheral Devices and Specialized Customer Premises Equipment

§ 1193.41 Compatibility.

When required by subpart B of this part, telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment shall be compatible with peripheral devices and specialized customer premises equipment commonly used by individuals with disabilities to achieve accessibility, and shall comply with the following provisions, as applicable:

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(a) External electronic access to all information and control mechanisms. Information needed for the operation of products (including output, alerts, icons, on-line help, and documentation) shall be available in a standard electronic text format on a cross-industry standard port and all input to and control of a product shall allow for real time operation by electronic text input into a cross-industry standard external port and in cross-industry standard format. The cross-industry standard port shall not require manipulation of a connector by the user. Products shall also provide a cross-industry standard connector which may require manipulation.

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(b) Connection point for external audio processing devices. Products providing auditory output shall provide the auditory signal at a standard signal level through an industry standard connector.

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(c) Non-interference with hearing technologies. Products shall not cause interference to hearing technologies (including hearing aids, cochlear implants, and assistive listening devices) of the user or bystanders.

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(d) Compatibility of controls with prosthetics. Touchscreen and touch-operated controls shall be operable without requiring body contact or close body proximity.

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(e) TTY connectability. Products which provide a function allowing voice communication and which do not themselves provide a TTY functionality shall provide a standard non-acoustic connection point for TTYs. It shall also be possible for the user to easily turn any microphone on and off to allow the user to intermix speech with TTY use.

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(f) TTY signal compatibility. Products providing voice communication functionality shall be able to support use of all cross-manufacturer non-proprietary standard signals used by TTYs.

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This is the end of the rules and comments.  Below is other material that was part of the NPRM, but which does not pertain specifically to any of the rules.


Attachment A -- Cover Materials for the NPRM

(File size = 157K)

Published in the Federal Register April 18, 1997

ARCHITECTURAL AND TRANSPORTATION BARRIERS COMPLIANCE BOARD

36 CFR Part 1193

[Docket No. 97-1]

RIN 3014-AA19

Telecommunications Act Accessibility Guidelines

AGENCY: Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board.

ACTION: Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.

SUMMARY: The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) proposes guidelines for accessibility, usability, and compatibility of telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment covered by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The Act requires manufacturers of telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment to ensure that the equipment is designed, developed, and fabricated to be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, if readily achievable. When it is not readily achievable to make the equipment accessible, the Act requires manufacturers to ensure that the equipment is compatible with existing peripheral devices or specialized customer premises equipment commonly used by individuals with disabilities to achieve access, if readily achievable. The guidelines will assist manufacturers to comply with the Act.

DATES: Comments should be received by June 2, 1997. Comments received after this date will be considered to the extent practicable.

ADDRESSES: Comments should be sent to the Office of Technical and Information Services, Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, 1331 F Street NW., suite 1000, Washington, DC 20004-1111. To facilitate posting comments on the Board's Internet site, commenters are requested to submit comments in electronic format, preferably as a Word or WordPerfect file, either by e-mail or on disk. Comments sent by e-mail will be considered only if they include the full name and address of the sender in the text. E-mail comments should be sent to docket@access-board.gov. Comments will be available for inspection at the above address from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on regular business days.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dennis Cannon, Office of Technical and Information Services, Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, 1331 F Street, NW., suite 1000, Washington, DC 20004-1111. Telephone number (202) 272-5434 extension 35 (voice); (202) 272-5449 (TTY). Electronic mail address: cannon@access-board.gov. DO NOT send comments on the NPRM to this address.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Availability of Copies and Electronic Access

Single copies of this publication may be obtained at no cost by calling the Access Board's automated publications order line (202) 272-5434, by pressing 1 on the telephone keypad, then 1 again, and requesting publication S-33 (Telecommunications Act Accessibility Guidelines Notice of Proposed Rulemaking). Persons using a TTY should call (202) 272-5449. Please record a name, address, telephone number and request publication S-33. This document is available in alternate formats upon request. Persons who want a copy in an alternate format should specify the type of format (cassette tape, Braille, large print, or computer disk).

This proposed rule is based on recommendations of the Board's Telecommunications Access Advisory Committee. The report can be obtained by contacting the Access Board and requesting publication S-32. The report is also available on this Internet site.


Attachment B -- Background

Background

On February 8, 1996, the President signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) is responsible for developing accessibility guidelines in conjunction with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under section 255(e) of the Act for telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment.

Section 255 provides that a manufacturer of telecommunications equipment or customer premises equipment shall ensure that the equipment is designed, developed, and fabricated to be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, if readily achievable. A provider of telecommunications services shall ensure that the service is accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, if readily achievable. Whenever either of these are not readily achievable, such a manufacturer or provider shall ensure that the equipment or service is compatible with existing peripheral devices or specialized customer premises equipment commonly used by individuals with disabilities to achieve access, if readily achievable. Section 255(f) provides that the FCC shall have exclusive jurisdiction in any enforcement action under section 255. It also limits an individual's private right of action to enforce any requirement of section 255 or any regulation issued pursuant to section 255.

The Telecommunications Act requires the Board's accessibility guidelines to be issued by August 8, 1997. The Board is also required to review and update the guidelines periodically. The Board's guidelines for telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment are required to principally address the access needs of individuals with disabilities affecting hearing, vision, movement, manipulation, speech, and interpretation of information.

This proposed rule is based on recommendations of the Telecommunications Access Advisory Committee (Committee or TAAC). The Committee was convened by the Access Board in June 1996 to assist the Board in fulfilling its mandate under section 255.

On May 24, 1996, the Access Board published a notice appointing members to the Committee. 61 FR 26155 (May 24, 1996). Between June 1996 and January 1997, the Committee held six meetings, each of three working days in length, during which members worked to develop recommendations for implementing requirements under section 255. In selecting members of the Committee, the Access Board sought to ensure representation from all parties interested in the promulgation of telecommunications accessibility guidelines. The Committee was composed of representatives of manufacturers of telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment; manufacturers of specialized customer premises equipment and peripheral devices; manufacturers of software; organizations representing the access needs of individuals with disabilities; telecommunications providers and carriers; and other persons affected by the guidelines.

The following organizations served on the Committee:

Each organization selected a principal member and an alternate. The Committee formed several subcommittees and task groups in which alternates and nonmembers were invited to participate. As a result, the actual group which developed the recommendations was broader than the formal membership. The result of the Committee's work was a report containing recommendations to the Access Board for implementing section 255 of the Telecommunications Act.


Attachment C -- Comments from the NPRM Regarding the Telecommunication Access Advisory Committee (TAAC) Recommendations

This proposed rule is based primarily on the recommendations of Chapter Four "Process Guidelines" and Chapter Five "Performance Guidelines" of the Committee report. In preparing its recommendations, the Committee recognized that evolving telecommunications technologies often make it difficult to distinguish whether a product's functions and interfaces are the result of the design of the product itself, or are the result of a service provider's software or even an information service format. The Committee's recommendations also did not differentiate between hardware and software implementations of a product's functions or features, nor was any distinction made between functions and features built into the product and those that may be provided from a remote server over the network. In response to a request from the Access Board, the FCC issued a Notice of Inquiry (FCC 96-382, September 17, 1996) to develop a record to assist the Board in the development of accessibility guidelines. In the Notice of Inquiry, the FCC also sought comment on issues raised when accessibility issues involve both telecommunications equipment and services.

The Committee report provides a broad overview of accessibility to telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment and is intended to stand alone as a model for achieving such access. It, therefore, covers issues that go beyond the Board's jurisdiction. The report provides advice to the FCC in the areas of compliance and telecommunications service delivery, as well as recommendations to manufacturers, engineers, and design professionals.

The report recommends the establishment of a cooperative dialogue among manufacturers, product developers, engineers, academicians, individuals with disabilities, and others involved in the telecommunications equipment design and development process. The report also recommends the creation of a technical subgroup of a professional society which could train and eventually certify "accessibility specialists" or engineers. As a result of work by several Committee members, such a group has already been created. The National Association of Radio and Telecommunications Engineers recently formed the Association of Accessibility Engineering Specialists. This association is expected to sponsor conferences and workshops, disseminate information, and suggest course curricula for future training and certification. The association could also serve as an advisory resource to the FCC to help speed resolution of complaints.

With respect to complaints, the Committee report recommends that a Declaration of Conformity accompany each product. Such a Declaration, among other things, would state that the product has met the requirements of section 255 and provide information on how to contact the manufacturer to obtain information about the product's accessibility features. Since enforcement for section 255 is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the FCC, this rule does not address the Declaration of Conformity.

The Committee's recommendations also suggest that a "Market Monitoring" report be issued periodically to address the state of the art of customer premises equipment and telecommunications equipment and the progress of making this equipment accessible. The Access Board intends to compile such a report on a regular basis and make it available to the public.

The provisions of section 255 recognize that individuals with disabilities need improved access to telecommunications technology. Section 255 places an obligation on manufacturers to consider accessibility when designing, developing, and fabricating telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment. Among other things, these proposed guidelines set forth factors to be considered throughout manufacturing processes to achieve accessibility. Because the pace of technological change is so rapid, it is expected that many aspects of accessibility which are not readily achievable today may become readily achievable in the future.

An important approach reflected in these proposed guidelines and in designing accessible products is called Universal Design. This is the practice of designing products so that they are usable by the broadest possible audience. Products designed in this manner are more usable by people with a wide range of abilities without reducing the product's usability or attractiveness for mass or core audiences. With Universal Design, the goal is to ensure maximum flexibility and ease of use for as many individuals as possible.

In the past, some products or designs developed with Universal Design principles have attracted a wider audience than may have otherwise been attracted by the product. For example, curb ramps, originally designed to ensure wheelchair access, are routinely used by people with strollers, bicyclists, and delivery personnel. Similarly, closed captioning on television programs, created for the benefit of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, sometimes is used in airports, restaurants, and other noisy locations where it is difficult to hear the audio portion of the program. Similarly, voice activated telephone dialers not only enable individuals with limited hand and finger mobility to place calls, they allow drivers to place calls while driving without requiring them to take their hands off the steering wheel. Also, vibrating pagers, which are accessible to deaf and hard of hearing persons, can alert users to calls without the audible tones interrupting business meetings. Finally, an audio adjunct to caller ID not only enables individuals who are blind to learn the identity of a caller, but enables people eating dinner to identify callers without leaving the dinner table.

Manufacturers are increasingly finding that by making a product accessible for people with disabilities, the product becomes more usable by other customers as well. For example, a recent article (Murphy, "Investing in Voice", Wired, March 1997, at 100) highlights the growing importance of voice recognition technology. At least two of the companies cited for leading edge advances in this field originally developed the technology as peripheral devices and software to provide access for individuals with disabilities. However, it was quickly discovered that other customers benefitted from the change. Clearly, Universal Design works in both directions. Some members of TAAC reported that adding accessibility features (e.g., adding voice to caller ID) increased sales.

Question 1: The Board seeks any other available information on whether adding accessibility features has actually increased sales.

The Board encourages the use of Universal Design in the manufacture of telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment. For some time, Pacific Bell has had a program to consider Universal Design in products and services, and Bell Atlantic and NYNEX recently held a joint press conference to announce their plans to embrace such principles. They stated that, if incorporated early enough in the design process, the cost of accessibility was insignificant.

In developing its recommendations to the Board, the Committee recommended that accessibility guidelines required by section 255, adhere to the following principles:

In proposing these guidelines, the Board believes that it has adhered to the above principles, within the framework of the Board's statutory authority.


Attachment D -- Regulatory Process Matters

Executive Order 12866

Under Executive Order 12866, the Board must determine whether these guidelines are a significant regulatory action. The Executive Order defines a "significant regulatory action" as one that is likely to result in a rule that may:

"(1) Have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more or adversely affect in a material way the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or State, local, or tribal governments or communities;

(2) Create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with an action taken or planned by another agency;

(3) Materially alter the budgetary impact of entitlements, grants, user fees, or loan programs or the rights and obligations of recipients thereof; or

(4) Raise novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal mandates, the President's priorities, or the principles set forth in this Executive Order."

For significant regulatory actions that are expected to have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more or adversely affect in a material way the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or State, local, or tribal governments or communities, a written assessment must be prepared of the costs and benefits anticipated from the regulatory action and any potentially effective and reasonably feasible alternatives to the planned regulation.

These guidelines have been developed to assist manufacturers of telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment to comply with section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Manufacturers are required to comply with section 255, and therefore these guidelines, to the extent that it is readily achievable. As discussed earlier in the preamble under section 1193.3 (Definitions) and section 1193.21 (Accessibility and Compatibility), the term "readily achievable" means "easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense." Each manufacturer will have to determine the extent to which compliance is readily achievable, balancing costs and available resources. The guidelines are also largely performance based and give manufacturers considerable flexibility in achieving design solutions. For these reasons, it is difficult to assess the costs that may be attributable to the guidelines. Questions are included in the proposed rule to elicit specific information on the costs and benefits of the guidelines. At this stage of the rulemaking, the Board has determined that the proposed rule is not expected to have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more or adversely affect in a material way the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or State, local, or tribal governments or communities. The Board will analyze the information submitted during the comment period and other available data, and if it is determined at the final rule stage that the guidelines are expected to have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more or adversely affect in a material way the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or State, local, or tribal governments or communities, the required written assessment will be prepared.

The Board and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have determined that the proposed rule meets the other criteria for a significant regulatory action (i.e., the proposed rule raises novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal mandates), and OMB has reviewed the proposed rule.

The guidelines adhere to the principles of the Executive Order. The Board has utilized an advisory committee comprised of representatives of the telecommunications industry and disability groups to develop the guidelines. The guidelines are based on the consensus recommendations of the advisory committee, and represent a balanced and reasonable means of achieving the objectives of section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

The Board has provided a 45 day comment period, instead of the usual 60 day period, due to the statutory deadline for issuing a final rule by August 8, 1997. As noted above, the guidelines have been developed through an advisory committee process. The public was invited to attend the advisory committee meetings and participate in subcommittees and task groups. A listserv site was also established on the Internet to allow the advisory committee and the public to conduct discussions between meetings. The public has been afforded a meaningful opportunity to participate in the development of the guidelines.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

The Board has determined that the proposed rule will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities, and that it is therefore not necessary to prepare an initial regulatory flexibility analysis. As discussed above, manufacturers of telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment are required to comply with section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and therefore these guidelines, to the extent that it is "readily achievable", which means that is "easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense." By its terms, the statute recognizes differences in the size and resources of manufacturers and minimizes the economic impact on small entities. Questions are included in the proposed rule to elicit information on how the size of an entity should affect what is readily achievable. The Board will analyze the information submitted during the comment period, and if it is determined at the final rule stage that the guidelines will have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities, a final regulatory flexibility analysis will be prepared.

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

Under the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act, Federal agencies must prepare a written assessment of the effects of any Federal mandate in a proposed or final rule that may result in the expenditure by State, local, and tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the private sector, of $100 million or more in any one year. As discussed above, at this stage of the rulemaking, the Board has determined that the proposed rule is not a significant regulatory action that will reach the $100 million or more level. The proposed rule seeks specific information on the costs and benefits of the guidelines. The Board will analyze the information submitted during the comment period and other available information, and if it is determined at the final rule stage that the $100 million or more level is reached, the required written assessment will be prepared.

Paperwork Reduction Act, Collection of Information: Telecommunications Act Accessibility Guidelines

Section 1193.25 contains information collection requirements. As required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, the Board has submitted a copy of this section to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for its review.

The public reporting and record keeping burden for this collection of information is estimated to be 1,350 hours in order for manufacturers of telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment to provide (1) a description of the accessibility and compatibility features of the equipment on request; and (2) the name and telephone number of a contact point for obtaining information concerning the accessibility and compatibility features of the equipment, alternate formats and customer and technical support for the equipment.

The estimated burden associated with providing a description of the accessibility and compatibility features of the equipment on request was calculated as follows:

Respondents..................... 150

Average responses............ × 60

Hours per response...........× .08 (5 minutes)

Annual reporting burden: 720 hours

The estimated burden associated with providing the name and telephone number of a contact point for obtaining information concerning the accessibility and compatibility features of the equipment, alternate formats and customer and technical support for the equipment was calculated as follows:

Respondents..................... 150

Average responses............ × 3000

Hours per response...........× .0014 (5 seconds)

Annual reporting burden: 630 hours

Total annual burden hours: 1,350 hours

Organizations and individuals desiring to submit comments on the information collection requirements should direct them to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, OMB, Room 10235, New Executive Office Building, Washington, DC 20503; Attention: Desk Officer for the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board.

The Board will consider comments by the public on this proposed collection of information in:

OMB is required to make a decision concerning the collection of information contained in these proposed guidelines between 30 and 60 days after publication of this document in the Federal Register. Therefore, a comment to OMB is best assured of having its full effect if OMB receives it within 30 days of publication. This does not affect the deadline for the public to comment to the Board on the proposed guidelines.

List of Subjects in 36 CFR Part 1193

Communications, Communications equipment, Individuals with disabilities, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Telecommunications.

Authorized by vote of the Access Board on March 12, 1997.



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