Initiative to Ease ASL Users’ Communication With Government
By: John Eggerton
WASHINGTON — Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler wants to give people with disabilities a hand. Make that two hands, and in the process, a stronger voice.
Wheeler plans to announce today at the TDI Conference in Baltimore that the FCC is making available an open-source video platform to make it easier for the deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind community to communicate with federal agencies and businesses in American Sign Language (ASL). “It is time for people who speak with their hands and hear with their eyes to enjoy modern advancements in communications technologies,” Wheeler planned to tell the conference, according to the commission, which announced the initiative in tandem with the speech.
“It’s time for you to be able to have your video products work together, so you can call whomever you wish, whenever you wish, from anywhere. The platform we are launching has tremendous potential to ensure that you will be able to do this.”
The FCC already has a direct video system — it was the first federal agency to use interactive video to give the deaf and hard-of-hearing access to ASL consumer support, an agency spokesperson said — as does the Small Business Administration. The Census Bureau, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the City of New York have all announced plans to use such a system.