Telecommunications and Persons with Disabilities:

Laying the Foundation

A Report of the First Year of The Blue Ribbon Panel on National Telecommunications Policy


Deborah Kaplan
John De Witt
Maud Steyaert

Project Consultants:

Jay Brill
John De Witt
Sam Simon

Project Staff:

Deborah Kaplan
Maud Steyaert
Susan Brown
Sandi Giddings

November 1992

National Telecommunications Policy Project Blue Ribbon Panel Members

Lars Augustsson
President and CEO, TeleNova, Stockholm, Sweden

Anita Baldwin
Representative, National Council on Independent Living
(Through May 1991, succeeded by June Kailes)

Dr. Frank Bowe
Department of Counseling, Research, Special Education, Rehabilitation Hofstra University

Jackie Brand
Executive Director, Alliance for Technology Access

Dale Brown
Program Manager
President's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities

Judy Harkins
Director, Gallaudet Research Institute, Gallaudet University

June Kailes
Computer Network Specialist, National Council on Independent Living

Oral Miller
Executive Director, American Council of the Blind

Michael Morris
Associate Executive Director, United Cerebral Palsy Associations

Tom Shworles
Chairperson, Committee on Personal Computers and the Handicapped

Al Sonnenstrahl
Executive Director, Telecommunications for the Deaf, Inc.

Max Starkloff
Executive Director, Paraquad, Inc.

Rocky Stone
Executive Director, Self-Help for Hard of Hearing People

National Telecommunications Policy Project Industry Supporters

Bell Atlantic
Bramalea Pacific Corporation
Electronic Industries Association
Minitel U.S.A.
Pacific Telesis
Southwestern Bell
Videotex Industry Association


WID and the staff of the National Telecommunications Policy Project would like to acknowledge the following individuals and organizations who have contributed to the success of the project and the completion of this report:

Susan Brown and Sandi Giddings, WID project support staff, who have worked late, worked hard and become expert at "multi-tasking."

John De Witt, who has contributed far more hours to this project than initially projected and whose expertise in telecommunications technology as related to persons with disabilities is invaluable. John De Witt researched and authored the sections of this report on demographics and on functional limitations and the use of telecommunications.

Mary Dillman, Chairperson of the Assistive Devices Division of the Electronic Industries Association, who provided support for the production of this report.

Gallaudet University and the staff of the Gallaudet Research Institute, for arranging for the first meeting of the panel and graciously responding to last minute needs.

Eleanor Henderson, whose document production work for WID has always been of the highest quality.

Kathy Klass, Jacci Grunninger and Jane Jensen, of Issue Dynamics, for assistance with all the nuts and bolts of holding panel meetings in Washington, D.C.

Sam Simon, who assisted in the development of this project and has provided insight into telecommunications policy analysis.

Maud Steyaert, whose kind manner has kept the project going, and who will be missed at WID.


  1. Foreword

  2. Introduction

  3. The Demographics of Disability

  4. Functional Limitations and the Use of Telecommunications

  5. Appendix 1

  6. Appendix 2


The past several years have witnessed rapid, sweeping, and comprehensive change in the ways we utilize telecommunications. Never before in our history have Americans had access to such a wide array of telecommunications products and services. Americans are no longer limited by the reach of their traditional copper wire telephones. Today, new and innovative technologies such as cellular phones, fiber optics, facsimile transmission, and satellite systems have enabled us to communicate almost instantaneously with any person, at any time, and at any place in our wide world.

It is unconscionable, however, that for many persons with disabilities, these new technologies offer little of promise. Often at a disadvantage in the use of basic telephone service, people with disabilities have particular needs to which new communications services are insensitive. The telecommunications system of the future will represent a mix of voice, graphic, and videotex services that may not be fully utilized by people who are deaf or hearing-impaired, blind or visually-impaired, or speech-impaired unless steps are taken now to guarantee their full and equal access. Passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 was an important stride forward in this effort. However, with regard to telecommunications access by persons with disabilities, many fundamental issues remain to be addressed.

The World Institute on Disability has initiated a two-year project on telecommunications policy in an effort to inform people with disabilities on telecommunications issues and involve them in the development of telecommunications policies both for the federal government and the communications industry. Initiated by a group of national disability leaders, this project will bring new sensitivities to the debate on how persons with disabilities may use telecommunications products and services to overcome the obstacles they face on a daily basis. At issue is the potential for people with disabilities to take full advantage of emerging telecommunications technologies and products that would enable them to function and compete fully in society. If we are to realize this potential, then disability leaders, legislators, and industry leaders must use their resources and unique perspectives in forging new consensus and cooperation.

This is a propitious moment for such cooperation to take place. For the telephone companies, recent court decisions and Congressional initiatives signal sweeping changes in the current structure of the telecommunications industry. As a result of the Modified Final Judgment (MFJ) of the consent decree entered into by AT&T and the Justice Department in 1984, the seven Regional Bell Operating Companies were created and authorized to offer local exchange services. Subsequently, these new Bell companies were prohibited from manufacturing telecommunications equipment, providing information services, or offering long distance services. These restrictions on the Regional Bell Operating Companies were recently modified, however, by a decision rendered by Judge Harold Greene, charged with administering the MFJ. Judge Greene's recent decision would allow the Bell companies to offer information services. As a result of this decision and pending Congressional action with regard to manufacturing, the role of the Bell companies is in a state of flux. Appropriate Bell company participation coupled with the innovative efforts of a myriad of other telecommunications providers could result in the offering of a plethora of new services such as videotex and voice yellow pages and the design and development of communications equipment specifically tailored to meet the needs of persons with disabilities.

This metamorphosis in the telecommunications industry could lead to tangible progress and increased cooperation between the business and the disabled communities. To the mutual benefit of all involved parties, the relationship between long-distance carriers, local exchange companies, and national disability leaders would represent a powerful and positive force for meaningful legislative change. Congressional leaders could capitalize on this new consensus to move forward in efforts to ensure access for persons with disabilities to all facets of our burgeoning telecommunications system. The moment has come for the national disability leadership and the telecommunications industry to join forces in eliminating the barriers faced by people with disabilities in the use of the communications network.

The World Institute on Disability is taking advantage of these times of transition to address the needs of its constituencies. I applaud its efforts. The following report represents an important tool with which persons with disabilities may join their voice to those of consumer groups in the debate on the future course of America's telecommunications policy. This report will both further involve the disabled community in the development of telecommunications policy and educate figures in Congress, Federal agencies, and the telecommunications industry on the needs and initiatives of persons with disabilities. We must take action so that all users of telecommunications services, including people with disabilities, reap the great benefits promised by new technologies and innovative products. This report is a significant step forward in that effort.

By the Honorable Edward J. Markey, Chairman Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Finance U.S. House of Representatives


This report is the product of the first year's activities of the Blue Ribbon Panel on National Telecommunications Policy. The panel was convened by the World Institute on Disability (WID) as the core of a two-year project that has brought together national leaders from major disability organizations, representatives from the telecommunications industry, policy-makers and telecommunications experts to learn from each other and begin to develop a national agenda for the future. The panel has twelve members, most of whom are persons with disabilities, who represent people with specific disabilities (i.e., hearing impairments, blindness and visual impairments, and learning disabilities) or particular organizations that share our interest in technology policy (i.e., Gallaudet University Research Institute, Alliance for Technology Access).*

The World Institute on Disability is a research, training and policy development center that is led by persons with disabilities. Its work focuses on significant issues in public policy that have potential to contribute towards a vision of a world in which all people with disabilities exert control over their lives. WID was founded eight years ago by leaders from the disability rights and independent living movements; it has grown into an internationally recognized organization that has a reputation for leadership and quality work. (See Appendix 1 for more information about WID).

In the area of technology policy, WID has a goal of empowering people with disabilities to determine where research and development efforts should be directed, what product design criteria should be followed, what needs should be met, and how best to get useful technology into their own lives. A variety of types of technology are needed in order for people with disabilities to have more control over their lives, as evidenced by more life choices. WID is concerned with policy issues such as financing, information dissemination, accessibility of systems and products, research and development priorities, and consumer involvement in policy processes.

The Challenge: Access to Telecommunications

Telecommunications policy has become critically important to people with disabilities because of the changes that have propelled us as a society into an Information Age. The telephone as we have known it has been eclipsed by a multitude of devices, services, and options that are difficult to describe, not only because of their complexity but because of the constant changes and new developments in this area.

People with disabilities are more at risk of social and physical isolation than most other groups. Telecommunications technologies are vehicles for preventing, reducing and even eliminating that isolation. Telecommunications are an essential component of how Americans work, do business, socialize, take care of basic needs, and engage in the political process. It is difficult to imagine how one might function in American society, or even survive, without telecommunications.

For many people with disabilities, however, access to basic telephone service is still nothing to take for granted. People who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech-impaired cannot use the voice-based telephone system. Telecommunications relay services are now developing to address some of these needs; yet they are a type of technical band-aid, requiring the user to first acquire an extra device (Text Telephone, or telecommunications display device1) and then communicate through an operator to another party. Many Text Telephones use Baudot code, an extremely slow mode of transmission. The technologies are now emerging that could eventually replace this system. No one could argue with the point that relay services are a major improvement in telecommunications access. They serve as a bridge between deaf and hard of hearing and speech impaired people, on one side, and the rest of society, on the other. New technologies should replace relays one day soon, though, to provide as much privacy and ease-of-use as possible.

The basic telephone instrument poses accessibility problems to people with a wide variety of disabilities. The catalogue of devices and equipment to remedy these access problems is several inches thick. In most states, individuals with disabilities are literally on their own to find out what is available, to determine whether it will really meet their needs, and to purchase it. For people with some disabilities, most notably people with speech impairments, there is little equipment available that will permit useful and private communication over the phone.

There are non-technical barriers to telecommunications as well. For example, people who use Text Telephones have little assurance that they can communicate with government offices, even those that are listed as having Text Telephones. Government workers are often untrained in Text Telephone use and hang up the phone because they don't recognize the sound of a Text Telephone call.

For people who cannot read fine print or manipulate a phone book, the barrier is to information. Accessible forms of print information such as yellow pages directory services need to be made available. The resulting lost opportunities affect not only the person with a disability, who cannot easily find a plumber when the pipes break, for example, but the business that will never receive the call.

New and emerging telecommunications services and products such as voice processing, videotex, and those associated with automatic number identification (A.N.I.) all present potential new barriers as well as the potential to be particularly useful to persons with disabilities. Videotex refers to interactive electronic services that are reached with a computer and a modem or a "dedicated" videotex terminal. Voice processing refers to a range of information services that are reached with a touch-tone phone. A.N.I. is a technology that underlies new telephone services such as caller i.d., call blocking and call trace.

Most people are unaware of the revolution in communication for blind and visually impaired people that has come about because of voice synthesis capabilities of modified personal computers. Much of the value of these gains may soon be lost, however, as on-line, screen-based information services switch from plain text to systems that include graphics. The voice synthesis systems that can "read" text out loud do not read graphics. Unless alternative modes of transmission in ASCII are made available, blind people may be faced with a return to old barriers they thought had been removed.

Text Telephone users cannot use most voice processing systems, even though a few companies have found technical ways to include Text Telephone access in their systems. Telecommunications relay systems have experienced great difficulty in providing access into voice processing systems, as well, since most systems don't provide enough response time for a relayed message. People with learning disabilities experience difficulties with limited response times and lack of repeat features.

Additionally, many telephone services are inaccessible to Text Telephone users. These services include voice mail, call waiting, and local directory assistance, which must be accessed through a third party.

Persons with mobility impairments (people with limited use of their arms, hands or fingers) are discovering that environmental control systems, which have served them so well up to this point, are not compatible with newer telephones and voice processing systems.

The Disability Leadership Responds

The Blue Ribbon Panel has been examining these technologies and barriers during the past year. Its first meeting was held in May of 1990 on the Gallaudet University campus in Washington, D.C. The focus of the agenda was on access to basic telephone services: telecommunications relay systems, equipment distribution programs, access to emergency services and to directory assistance. Speakers included members of the panel and other experts from the disabled community, representatives from the industry and its research facilities, and consumer advocates. (See Appendix 2 for the full agendas of these meetings.)

The second meeting of the panel took place in Oakland, California in November, 1990. The focus of the agenda for this meeting was on access to emerging services: videotex, voice processing, real time video and an overview of international developments. This meeting also included a hands-on demonstration session of the "gateway" trials of NYNEX, BellSouth, and U.S. West, the French Minitel system, the GEnie private information service, and the Text Telephone-accessible voice processing system of Microlog.

The third meeting was held in Washington, D.C. in March, 1991. The focus was on the then-proposed regulations to implement the Americans with Disabilities Act. The panel heard from representatives of the federal agencies with ADA compliance responsibilities. Presentations were also given by representatives of the National Cable Television Association and The T-1 Standards Committee, a cross-industry standards setting body. At the close of the meeting, panel members visited Chairman Al Sikes and Commissioner Ervin Duggan of the F.C.C.

This report is the panel's first response to these challenges. It is a description of the characteristics and needs of persons with disabilities with respect to telecommunications services and products. It addresses these needs from the perspective of the following disability groupings: physical disabilities, speech impairments, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities and other cognitive impairments, and blindness and vision impairments.

We have called this report "Laying the Foundation" because we believe that basic issues must be understood before policy can be addressed. This document focuses on demographics with a new perspective. We examine the usefulness of existing data for planning or marketing purposes and conclude more research is needed. We have tried to present current demographic information in a meaningful way.

This report also describes the needs of persons with different disabilities in both graphic and text formats. The report itself demonstrates an important principle we have learned about access to technology: redundancy. The tables included here are very useful to many, but people with vision and cognitive impairments may have difficulty with them. The accompanying text is designed to provide better access to content.

The Blue Ribbon Panel will meet twice more and will consider issues such as public funding choices, the extent to which intelligence is needed in the network, and the ongoing relationship between the telecommunications industry and the disabled community. The final report of the panel will include public policy recommendations. It will be issued by mid-1992.

Public Policy and Persons with Disabilities

In discussing the needs of persons with disabilities, it is important to recognize some basic principles. The first is that people with disabilities are as diverse as the human population; thus, most generalizations based upon particular types of disabilities are accompanied by numerous exceptions. Within any particular type of disability (e.g., hearing loss) there are many differences that affect an individual's ability to function and adapt: age at onset, severity of the impairment, availability of training or rehabilitation, degree of support from family and friends, cultural attitudes towards disability, and other factors. There is no escape from the fact that people with disabilities are individuals who approach life with different histories, attitudes and resources. Two people can have the same functional impairment and yet require completely different services or types of equipment.

A second important concept is that people with disabilities should be regarded as problem solvers. Unfortunately, the history of people with disabilities in the U.S. and elsewhere has been, in large part, one of paternalism. Entire professions of "experts" have emerged who have obtained degrees, and also taken control over basic life decisions away from their clients. However, recent trends have demonstrated that, given the proper tools, people with many different types of disabilities can devise creative approaches to eradicate barriers that had stumped the so- called experts. For example, the new lightweight "sports" wheelchairs that are now very popular were designed by innovative wheelchair users, not the established wheelchair industry. Telecommunications technologies are particularly interesting to us because they have the potential to become some of our most valuable tools.

As Susan Daniels has pointed out in "The Meaning of Disability: Evolving Concepts"2, the use of technology in the lives of persons with disabilities is bringing about a "paradigm shift," redefining the meaning of disability in our culture. The old perception of disabled people in society, which she refers to as the "Individual Defect" paradigm, is based upon the inherent assumption that a disability is a physical or mental difference that is not desirable. Under it, people with disabilities are regarded as in need of special care or services that will cure them or else help them to adjust to their afflictions.

Daniels calls the new perspective the Technology/Ecology paradigm. Under it, disability is defined as "a lack of fit between a person's goals, his or her capabilities and environmental resources." Pointing out that we all are dependent on technology, she observes that a broken wheel has a similar effect on a nondisabled truck driver, a bus passenger who is blind or a wheelchair using athlete.

In the case of this panel, our attention ought not to be on the disabled "patient" or "client" but on improving the fit between the person and telecommunications services. The nature of the problem is not the disability itself but the lack of access to appropriate tools, information or training. The desired outcome for an individual is not best described in terms of improved functional ability but in terms of freedom of choice and equal opportunity.

Disability can be usefully defined as a function of a person with an impairment interacting with elements in his/her environment. Depending on factors in a person's environment, that person will be more or less disabled. It is not so much a person's physical loss or impairment that disables that person, but rather it is the interaction between that person and his/her environment which brings more or less disability - the environment, of course, comprising attitudes, physical factors, values, etc.

Recent trends in disability public policy are evidence of this transformed mode of thinking. The Americans with Disabilities Act (P.L. 101-336) and the "Tech Act"3 are noteworthy for several reasons, not the least of which was their speed in moving through the legislative process. Coming at a time when the U.S. Congress has been criticized for not accomplishing much, both bills received bipartisan support; both will radically change life for persons with disabilities.

The language of the Technology-Related Assistance Act acknowledges the value of technology for persons with disabilities, enabling them to:

The ADA focuses on eliminating barriers to full participation by persons with disabilities in American life. Its goal is not to "cure" the person with a disability but to cure the problems in the environment which serve as barriers to participation. It provides many of the same legal remedies that are available to traditional civil rights constituencies. For its goals to be accomplished, many segments of American society will need to make changes, either in their policies or in their premises. In addition to mandating a nationwide system of relay services for Text Telephone users, it will have significant impact on how businesses use telecommunication services and equipment, and it may well create new markets for the telecommunications industry.

The Technology-Related Assistance Act signifies a policy direction recently taken by the federal rehabilitation establishment. The Tech Act provides federal grants to states to develop programs to respond to the needs of persons with disabilities for information, technical assistance, direct services and public awareness regarding assistive technology. It also mandates a study from the National Council on Disability4 on financing of assistive technology, as well as other projects on establishment of a referral network, training and public awareness, and demonstration and innovation.

Other recent federal legislative initiatives that recognize and strengthen the opportunities that are brought about through the availability of technology include:

Public Policy and Telecommunications

The 1980s was a time of significant policy action on telecommunications and disability.

The Telecommunications for the Disabled Act of 1982 was an attempt to ensure oversight by the FCC, so that the break- up of the Bell System would not have adverse effects on disabled people. But the law had no teeth and had little, if any, impact. Divestiture proceeded with little attention to its impact on people with disabilities.

Advocates turned to innovations in policy that have had profound impact on telecommunications access. In California, for example, deaf advocates reasoned that telephone service, as a public utility, belonged to all people. By first providing equipment to make the network basically accessible, and then providing uninterrupted, professional relay service, the state of California took the lead in removing what has been the most devastating barrier facing deaf people. This action, along with action in several other states in the early 1980s, led to a national movement toward nationwide relay service. By building in a financing mechanism that was reasonable, a revenue base for provision of relay service was built and a market for services created. Today, deaf people, traditionally snubbed by large companies as a thin market, are respected customers and upwardly mobile employees of telephone companies that sell relay service. Many hard of hearing consumers and people with speech impairments also stand to benefit from this trend. The Americans with Disabilities Act closed the gaps in relay service and will, by 1993, pave the way for unrestricted calling through relay service in all of the states.

Also during the 1980s a small association known as OUT, Organization for Use of the Telephone, led by David Saks, tenaciously pursued hearing aid compatibility for all telephones. Technology used in telephone sets, as it matured, was migrating away from permitting magnetic leakage. This leakage has a beneficial effect for many severely hard of hearing people who use hearing aids with a telecoil that picks up the signal and improves the ability to hear speech on the telephone. The Hearing Aid Compatibility Act, which requires compatibility with telecoils on all telephone sets sold in the United States, was signed into law in 1989.

These initiatives exemplify the disabled consumer's attempt to attain accessible POTS - plain old telephone service. Just recently have consumers barred from POTS in the past begun to catch up.

But these strides have been made just as POTS, as a concept, is beginning to lose meaning. With the melding of computer technology and telecommunication, "plain" and "old" are becoming more and more sophisticated. Telecommunications is becoming a multi-sensory phenomenon. The telecommunications industry is the testbed for hundreds of innovations that may benefit disabled people by removing social isolation and contributing to the individual power of the person. The technologies, sadly, also present new barriers.

The disability rights movement is a fairly recent phenomenon. When the Communications Act of 1934 was enacted, disability public policy, such as it was, focused on the meager public benefits system that existed. Thus, the concept of Universal Service as it was developed then did not specify consideration of the needs of persons with disabilities. Unfortunately, the Communications Act has not been brought up to date in this regard.

Until 1984, the American telephone industry was essentially a monopoly. In 1984, the Bell system was partitioned into several segments, as a result of an anti-trust suit. Monopolies on local telephone service were allowed to continue, but major industry segments such as equipment, long distance service, and commercial telephone directories (Yellow Pages) were opened for competition. AT&T was divested of its local-service components, which were divided among seven Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs). AT&T became a long-distance company and equipment manufacturer. The Bell system's research and development arm, Bell Labs, was split into two research organizations: Bell Communications Research (Bellcore) for the RBOCs and Bell Labs for AT&T.

Each of the resulting companies was allowed certain markets and barred from certain others. Since that time, disputes within the industry have arisen, as companies attempt to expand their capacities to develop and market in areas from which they have been barred by the consent decree. The Regional Bell Operating Companies in particular have mounted a massive campaign to free themselves from restrictions. The RBOCs want to develop and market equipment, information services, and cable television. They make the case that the terms of the consent decree retard research and development in telecommunications.

Opposing this campaign are many consumer advocates and competing industries who raise the concern that the huge resources of these companies, guaranteed because of their monopoly status, will create an uneven playing field for the industry, and will stifle competition. They make the case that ownership of the network by these companies could lead once again to anti-competitive practices that favor the companies' own business interests.

To disabled consumers, the important goal is to maximize the potential of technology to improve the fit between the individual and society. Affordability of new technology is an important issue. The provision of new services through the existing, regulated, and familiar public utility is appealing.

The needs of disabled people have been frequently invoked by large telephone companies as an area in which much new technology will be made available after restrictions are lifted. Disabled people may benefit from the interest of these companies, but may also, if the past is any indication, require specific safeguards and requirements to ensure that the promises are fulfilled.

One of the goals of WID's National Telecommunications Policy Project is to create bridges between the policy track of telecommunications - including general consumer issues, which are often summarized without regard to the needs of disabled consumers - and the policy track of disability. Through this project, advocates are educating themselves about such issues as standards development, emerging technology, and public policy in the telecommunications arena.

(Footnotes to Introduction)

The Demographics of Disability


Before persons with disabilities can achieve access equivalent to people without disabilities in the expanding world of telecommunications, several issues need to be faced:

Unlike age, national origin, race or any other factor commonly measured by demographic studies, disability is not always precisely defined or easily quantified. Imprecise definitions lead to imprecise head counts.

Regardless of precision, people with disabilities represent the largest market segment of any "minority" group in the United States - at its most conservative 1990 estimate, 34 million individuals.1 This compares with 28 million African-Americans and 26 million elderly persons.

Traditionally, disability statistics have been the concern of researchers and social service providers, disability advocates and persons with disabilities themselves. Their interests tend to determine what questions are asked and what data gets collected. Results are used to define public policy limits and the nature of social programs.

During the last few years, especially since passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the business community has begun to recognize the potential of persons with disabilities as a market segment. It is seeking statistics which can aid in making sound "business case" judgments for design parameters, and for marketing strategies involving products and services that will be useful to them. Knowledge about the demographics of disability, in this context, becomes a powerful tool.

Most attempts to develop reliable data on disability, targeted to business needs, have resulted in a disappointing representation - often downright confusing or contradictory. There is little doubt that better data sources are urgently needed.

This section attempts to ask some germane questions and suggest a direction for finding one's way through the maze of disability statistics. Data alone is always an indicator pointing toward, but never defining, opportunities.

Definitions of Disability

Until recently, disability has been defined largely from a medical and clinical perspective, looking at the causes and effects of congenital conditions, disease and injury. Today the focus is more upon function, how specific causes change the manner by, or limit the extent to, which life's activities and actions are performed. No complete definition of disability can exist without both. To the business community, "performance" is paramount; clinical and medical considerations serve only as background. Nevertheless, it will be helpful to consider separately each view. See Figure 1.

The Clinical View

Disabilities ultimately can be traced back to clinical/medical disorders due to physical, sensory or mental conditions caused by injury, trauma, disease or congenital effects. A disease of the eye's retina, an injury to one's legs or a congenital condition affecting perception are examples of clinical disorders. These disorders may or may not lead to an impairment. If the retinal disease causes a change in seeing, a leg injury a change in moving, or the perceptual condition a change in processing information, an impairment has occurred. The impairment may trigger a limitation in performance of particular activities or actions. These limitations are commonly thought of as "disability."

One definition of disability is "any restriction or lack (resulting from an impairment) of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being."2 A noted disability demographer, Mitchell P. LaPlante, defines disability, in part, as "a limitation in the performance of actions and/or activities resulting from some physical and/or mental difference."3 It is useful to consider "differences" in functioning, especially for various stages of life. No one would expect a month-old infant to walk. The limitation in functioning is normal at that age. Later, let's say at three years old, a limitation in walking would be an indicator of an activity limitation because a child is expected to walk by age three.

Medical/clinical perspectives help to diagnose, treat and sometimes cure disorders which disable. They help fix. For chronic conditions, which medicine cannot fix, the focus must be on functioning, or performance. It is more useful to examine what enables people to function, not their clinical impairments.

The activity of hearing, involving actions of listening, is significant in telecommunications use if understanding speech or distinguishing tones and beeps are involved, such as with a traditional telephone and network. For that purpose, the individual with impaired hearing has a disability. To enable an individual to use a traditional telephone and network, non-auditory access is essential: a text telephone, a dual-party relay service, or text-to- speech and speech-to-text technology. For using a visually- based telecommunications product or service, for example, a computer with modem, the hearing impaired individual is not disabled.

Products designed to accommodate the functional needs of all consumers tend to dissipate disability. Products not so designed tend to perpetuate functional limitations.

The Performance View

From this perspective, disability is viewed as a functional issue. Essentially it asks if an individual has a limitation in performing a "major life activity" or "action."4

A major life activity includes, among many others, hearing, seeing, moving, speaking and cognitive processing. From the perspective of the telecommunications industry these are the essential activities with which to be concerned.5

An action associated with a major activity includes the more detailed elements of the activity. For example, walking, kneeling, crouching, reaching, handling or fingering are actions associated with the activity of moving. Not all actions of the major life activities mentioned above have an impact upon telecommunications. Crouching, as an example, would seldom be an action associated with use of telecommunications products or services. Handling and fingering most certainly are.

Our view departs somewhat from traditional definitions of activities and actions. Often "major life activities" are defined as social roles such as "going to school," "working" or performing "instrumental activities of daily living," such as household chores or shopping. While these are legitimate concerns, they are not, strictly speaking, functional. It might be preferable to confine major life activities to those such as hearing or seeing.

From these, one may draw conclusions, as necessary, about issues such as school, work or daily life. The more important questions are:

Traditional performance-based definitions of disability simply do not offer enough detail to answer these questions effectively. We must go one step further.

Each action consists of a subset of other actions. Fingering might include "pushing" a dialpad key, "gripping" a toggle switch, or "turning" a knob. These are the detailed action subsets which face an individual with a disability on a daily basis. Disability literature, generally, does not address these critical action subsets.

Barriers to performing actions and action subsets exist everywhere. Most often these are architectural or communication impediments where they are not caused by negative attitudes about disability itself. Understanding barriers is the last step in defining whether a disability exists for a specific individual at a particular moment in time. Our discussion will focus more specifically upon barriers and solutions in a subsequent section of this report.

Figure 1

Prevalence Rates of Specific Disabilities

Simply stated, there are no sets of data that provide demographics on disability at the level needed by the telecommunications industry, or American business generally. Discouraging as this may sound, there are some indicators which may help in establishing a base line with which to work until more useful data can be collected and analyzed.

The fundamental source of data for American business is the U.S. Census. Its reports and spinoffs by private research firms form a demographic foundation. Point-of-sale data and customer records are overlaid to provide sophisticated profiles of consumers, their preferences and buying patterns. Neither the decennial census nor consumer research surveys ask questions about disability, especially from a functional perspective. The only functional question included in the census asks whether a respondent's disability creates a limitation in working. No data exist regarding prevalence rates for detailed actions or tasks.

Researchers into disability statistics generally consider the subject from a medical or health-care perspective. The education, rehabilitation and social service sectors view disability with a focus upon public policy, schooling, employment or independent living, but still seen through clinical and diagnostic eyes.

The most widely quoted data on disability are those derived from the National Health Interview Surveys (NHIS) conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).6 Other sources, much less frequently cited, are: the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), documentation of children with learning disabilities which emanates from the special education field, states attempting to count individuals with particular "impairments" such as blindness and severe visual impairment, or the International Center on Disability's Lou Harris survey. As one might suspect, methodologies differ, data sets are dissimilar and results, predictably, are not comparable.

NHIS interviews yield self-reported data about medical conditions. Although questions regarding activity limitations are included as part of the survey, they offer only general information. These data sets, while limited, can be useful for making inferences about estimates of prevalence.7 A recently completed NHIS "assistive devices" survey addresses some areas of concern to the telecommunications industry and a planned 1993/94 NHIS project will survey "disability" in more depth.8

In General

Approximately 14% of the United States population reports that they have a limitation relative to one or more "major life activities."9 Arthritis is probably the single most prevalent chronic condition affecting the use of telecommunications. Rates are higher for families with lower annual incomes and for certain racial or ethnic groups such as African Americans, Latin Americans and Native Americans. Prevalence varies little between male and female, except in older age groups. Age, on the other hand, is strongly linked to functional limitations. Limitations in seeing and hearing show higher prevalence rates within older age groups. Certain limitations in moving, such as those caused by arthritis in its various forms, also increase with age. Memory limitations are more apparent among elderly individuals.

A condition such as cerebral palsy (CP), which for some may affect moving, speaking and cognition, is usually present at birth and represents a higher percentage of children with functional limitations than is found in the adult population. The same can be said for learning disabilities (LD), affecting actions commonly associated with seeing and hearing and the social role of schooling. Prevalence of LD is close to five percent among children, ages 6-21. Although CP and LD continue throughout an individual's life span, prevalence tends to be overshadowed by the occurrence of new causes such as injury, trauma or age-related conditions.

NHIS information falls short of providing the full range of data needed by business and industry. It is safe to assume that not all persons with a medically-based impairment have functional limitations. It is also safe to assume that not all persons with one or more functional limitations are necessarily limited in a particular action or its more detailed action subsets. A few changes in methodology could make enormous differences in useful data. For instance, coding whether "other trouble hearing" occurs in both ears or just one, would help define a market for volume amplifiers. Coding the degree of limitation might aid in determining optimal levels of amplification.

Although an individual's hearing may be profoundly impaired, if the loss is not bilateral, use of the telephone during conversations might not be limited because one ear is not affected. Nevertheless, the same individual might be limited in hearing conversations in a room due to loss of directional perspective or problems with discriminating the desired voice from ambient room noise. A multitude of factors will determine whether a particular individual is limited for a specific purpose.

It is important to not overestimate prevalence and run the risk of forecasting optimistically high market potential. For example, over 19 million persons responded "yes" when the NHIS asked if they have "any other trouble hearing." Perhaps the prevalence of limitations in use of telecommunications would be overstated at that level, but perhaps not at a level somewhere in between the 1,741,000 persons who are deaf in both ears and the 19,288,000 cited in this example.

Conversely, NHIS respondents might answer "yes" to a question about whether they can "read normal newspaper print" (an action involving close vision), and later also respond "yes" to a question asking if they have "any other trouble seeing" (e.g., color blind or distance vision). For example, difficulty in discerning the color red will cause an individual who has limitations in discriminating between colors to be limited in using telephones with red line-status indicators. In these, or similar instances, prevalence might be higher than expected based upon the "activity" question about "reading," versus the clinical question about "any other trouble seeing." An appropriate number for the former might be 3 million and the latter somewhat less than 8 million. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

Table 1 shows prevalence estimates for all persons due to chronic conditions from all causes. Results are based upon the total civilian, noninstitutionalized U.S. population of 231,549,000 averaged over the years 1983-85.10 If persons residing in nursing homes were included, as an institutional example, prevalence would be higher. NHIS interviews are conducted annually, with sampling of over 48,000 households. Approximately one-sixth of the sample are asked questions about activity limitations.

Data in the table includes the number of persons reporting an impairment or chronic condition regardless of how it might limit activities (All Causes). For this estimate, subtotals are shown for "degrees" of activity limitation. This may serve as a means to assess the total number of persons who, from whatever cause(s), have some functional limitation. Subcategories are:

Inferring from NHIS data for "all causes," 23,715,000 persons in the United States may have limitations which could relate to use of telecommunications products or services. The categories "limited in amount and kind of major activity" and "limited in non-major activity" have been used to derive this estimate. It should be viewed as an indicator only, probably high for at least two reasons.

First, some causes do not limit telecommunications access, such as a digestive disorder. Where more than one cause is present, for example both blindness and a digestive condition, it is difficult to separate the multiple causes from each other relative to telecommunications.

Second, it is reasonable to assume that many persons reporting limitations in performing an activity are limited in the typical actions associated with the use of telecommunications (see Tables 3 and 4). However, since the activities referred to in NHIS data are social, working, daily living, etc., limitations may be unrelated to telecommunications. For example, a person may be limited in work because of the lack of transportation, but not in use of a keyboard or telephone dialpad. The same can be said for each of the other categories in Table 1.

Nevertheless, if close to our stated number, estimates represent a market segment of almost 24 million, comparing favorably in sales potential with 28 million African Americans or 26 million elderly persons.

In Table 2, data are presented to show a range of prevalence for conditions which affect the use of telecommunications: hearing, seeing, moving, speaking and cognitive processing. For each condition, two estimates are presented, a maximum, probably too high, and a minimum, probably too low.

Estimates are shown for persons reporting a chronic condition or impairment, regardless of whether it creates a telecommunications limitation. If a minus sign (-) follows the estimate, it is assumed that not all persons are limited in telecommunications use for that cause.

Estimates are also shown for persons reporting some degree of "activity limitation" due to the condition. If a dot symbol (·) follows the estimate, it is assumed that a limitation in telecommunications use exists unquestionably and, therefore, the activity limitation estimate is being ignored, for example, deaf in both ears or complete paralysis. All other estimates should be considered minimal and are indicated with a plus sign (+).

For some conditions such as speaking, no breakdown exists to estimate nonverbal/vocal compared with other speech disorders. No overall total is possible for cognitive processing or sub-categories such as memory/sequencing. Estimates for learning disabilities are drawn from Department of Education data and expanded across all ages.11 Table 2, similar to Table 1, is an indicator. The real prevalence for any condition probably lies somewhere in the middle between maximum and minimum.

Table 1

Table 2

Figure 2

Hearing: Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Being deaf in both ears creates, unquestionably, a limitation in using the telephone for voice communication and other telecommunications products or services employing any type of auditory information.

In the hard of hearing category, not all conditions are activity limiting or of such severity that they create a limitation in using the telephone for voice communication, or other telecommunications products or services employing auditory information. A bilateral limitation, even if not total, is likely to limit telecommunications use. Survey data do not conveniently break out conditions classified as "other trouble hearing." Many factors affect an individual's ability to function and adapt to his/her being hard of hearing: age of onset, severity of the limitation, availability of training or rehabilitation, degree of support from family and friends, or cultural attitudes. Every individual who is hard of hearing approaches life with a different history, set of attitudes and resources.

Seeing: Blind and Low Vision

Being blind in both eyes creates, unquestionably, a limitation in using the telephone and other telecommunications products or services requiring any type of visual task.

The "inability to read ordinary newspaper print . . ." is generally accepted as the definition of "severe visual impairment" for many service provider programs. The term "low vision" is increasingly being used to cover a wider range of functioning. Recent analysis of newer NHIS data indicates that the number of persons may be significantly higher than previously reported for this particular limitation.

However, NHIS also lists, among its data, conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma or "other" visual impairments" which do not necessarily result in limitations of any kind. A frequently quoted figure of 11.7 million persons with a visual impairment is somewhat misleading, at least for this discussion.

Similar to hard of hearing persons, assessing the precise level of functioning for an individual with low vision is complex. Levels of light and contrast, size of print or objects, and use of contrasting colors or hues, each affect readability and visibility. Continual changes in these environmental conditions can make it difficult for an individual to predict his/her functional capacity from place to place and hour to hour.

Moving: Upper and Lower Extremities

Bilateral absence or complete paralysis of left and right extremities creates, unquestionably, a limitation in using the telephone and other telecommunications products or services requiring motor control. Impairments of range, strength, coordination, or unilateral absence or paralysis create at least some limitation.

NHIS coding includes a great many categories where the activity of moving might be involved. As can be seen from Figure 2, it is not easily broken down into the areas needed for distinguishing between upper and lower body motions. For example, classifications such as "absence of fingers, toes or feet" or "complete paralysis of extremities" does not permit precise enumeration.

An exact match to telecommunications is not possible, since questions in NHIS interviews concerning activity limitations revolve around work and around daily living, such as household chores or shopping. Because it is likely that NHIS respondents might not report trouble with "minor" activities, such as pressing touch-tone keys, limitations in the use of telecommunications could be understated.

People with arthritis are undoubtedly the largest single group upon which this study is reporting. Prevalence of the condition is 29 million. Only one-sixth of them report an activity limitation. Nevertheless, five million or more represents a sizable market segment in need of accessibility to telecommunications.

Speaking: Nonverbal/Vocal and Impaired Speech

Being nonverbal or nonvocal creates, unquestionably, a limitation in using the telephone and other telecommunications products or services requiring voice communication.

NHIS coding for "speech impairment" if used alone would understate prevalence for this group because, for example, it does not include categories such as cerebral palsy. Counting all persons for the NHIS categories shown in Figure 2, would overstate it. Once again, a midpoint appears appropriate.

Impaired speech has an effect upon use of the telephone and network services. Often these are more subtle, impacting the interpersonal communication between the affected individual and the person receiving the communication. Soft speech, stuttering, esophageal speech or use of an artificial larynx are examples where communication may be affected.

Cognitive Processing: Learning Disabilities, Memory, Sequencing

An individual with a perceptual, memory or sequencing impairment, undoubtedly, has a limitation in use of telecommunications products and services. It will manifest itself differently from individual to individual. For those with learning disabilities, perceptions of visual or auditory stimuli alone may not be sufficient to facilitate comprehension or fine motor actions. For example, responding in a timely manner to an automated attendant may be difficult if the individual's auditory processing is not quickly translated into the action of pressing an appropriate key on a telephone dialpad. A person's ability to remember numbers or follow instructions, resulting from a mildly diffused atrophy of the brain, may cause a limitation in their use of a telephone's programmable feature keys.

Cognitive processing is an elusive area to document. Severe "mental retardation" (NCHS term), or mental illness are not being included in this report, even though learning disabilities and memory/sequencing probably fall into the category from an NCHS perspective. It is difficult to draw distinctions, based upon survey classifications, between some mild forms of mental retardation, developmental disabilities and those associated with other causes. Learning disabilities are largely perceptual. Memory or sequencing limitations may occur due to the natural aging process , or to head injury, spinal cord injury or stroke, among others. One has difficulty knowing where to find prevalence data from within many possible classifications.

In Table 2, data from the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics has been used for the "perceptual" category, rather than NHIS sources. The Department indicates that 4.73% of children ages 6-21, have some form of learning disability. Data on adult prevalence are not known. However, since learning disabilities do not disappear with age, it is safe to assume that prevalence remains about 5%, perhaps higher. Language limitations such as so-called "illiteracy" may mask perceptual or learning limitations.

No data are available regarding memory or sequencing.

(Footnotes for Demographics section)

Functional Limitations and the Use of Telecommunications

Not every individual will function identically while performing a particular action, even though the same clinical impairment exists. Gradations of severity vary from virtually none to complete. Equally, a particular individual's attitude about their own abilities will affect functioning. The context in which the task being performed is critical. A person who is blind may have no limitation whatsoever in locating a telephone in order to make an outgoing call when at home. However, the same person may not be able to find a public telephone independently on the street or inside a public building, unless there is some nonvisual clue as to its location or it has been previously found and the location noted.

This section focuses upon one telecommunications task and component/feature at a time. In the real world, multiple limitations often exist. An older person with arthritis affecting use of their fingers while dialing a telephone might also have limitations in hearing or seeing due to the natural process of aging.

Height or body size is not often thought of as a functional limitation in use of telecommunications. Small people and younger children frequently encounter difficulty in using public coin/card telephones. Some larger individuals may encounter difficulty using the allocated space. Although not specifically noted in the following tables, inferences can be made by referring to the "moving" category of the tables.

Similarly, specific attention to language limitations is not covered. However, many of the barriers and solutions cited relative to hearing and to perceptual/learning disabilities apply to this area. A prime example of a solution is the use of redundant visual and auditory information, which can aid an individual who is unfamiliar with written or with spoken language. While these individuals do not have a clinical impairment, they have a functional limitation, perhaps due to educational causes or to learning English as a second language. The inclusion of a closed captioning decoder in TV sets, beginning in mid-1993, is an excellent illustration of an opportunity for broad market penetration of persons with disabilities and a very substantial segment of the "general" public as well.

Tables 3 and 4 are intended to be used together. The former summarizes tasks involved in telecommunications use. Relevant examples include telephones (residential, business or public), computers, automated teller machines and telephone network and videotex services. The latter provides detail as to physical components and system features commonly found in many products and services. In each table, "ease of use" is the focus. Where a task is made easier, more difficult or impossible to use because of the design of a particular component or feature, it is noted in the appropriate cell. It is assumed, for the purpose of these tables, that no third-party product or specialized equipment is being used, such as a magnifier, hearing aid T-switch or wheelchair.

It will become evident as the tables are viewed that opportunities exist to increase the ease of use - not only for persons with disabilities, but equally for most people.

We wish to acknowledge the fine work done by the European Community Working Group.1 Table 3 is patterned after one of its charts. The "Cost 219" project has broken important ground. Our effort is another step in this evolving process. A good example is the range of ease of use specified for each chronic condition or impairment, in recognition of how many variations exist in practice for telecommunications tasks and the components and features used to accomplish them.

In Table 3, code letters are used to indicate the range for how "easy" a specific telecommunications task might be to accomplish for an individual with a particular functional limitation, given no special attention to accessibility components or features. Because variations exist both between an individual's capacity and the setting in which the task is to be accomplished, indicating a range seems appropriate.

Table 4 is coded similarly. Each component or feature commonly found in a broad range of telecommunications products and services is listed together with an indication of whether it enhances or inhibits ease of use. A simple plus or minus sign is used, without giving a weighting factor for indicating its relative importance.

Table 3

Table 4


The incorporation of text telephone access ports or keyboards, hearing aid compatible handsets, volume controls for handsets and speakers, and the simultaneous use of visual information to supplement audio information will enhance use of telephones and other telecommunications products and services. Development of text-to-speech and voice carry-over technologies will also enhance use. Simultaneously, text-to-speech technology will enhance use for those with speaking limitations.


The incorporation of synthetic speech, large print with simple serif fonts and high contrast, tactile markings used to create a frame of reference, and the simultaneous use of audible information to supplement visual information, will enhance use of telephones and other telecommunications products and services. Development of text-to-speech directories for telephone networks and shopping malls, or the incorporation of descriptive video services on TV, cable or videotex systems will increase access. Simultaneously, use of text-to-speech technology will assist persons with some language limitations.


For persons with upper-extremity limitations, incorporating lightweight handsets which are contoured for easy gripping and holding, or keys, switches and controls with sufficient concavity, size, spacing, force and slip co-efficient will enhance use. Development of speech-to-text features for no-hands use will increase access. Simultaneously, components with appropriate tactile characteristics will enhance use for blind/low vision users. Speech-to-text technology will enhance use for persons with limitations in speaking, as well as many with perceptual, memory or sequencing limitations.

For persons with lower-extremity limitations, incorporating components which are within line of sight and reach from a sitting height, spaces such as public telephone sites which will accommodate a variety of wheelchair designs, or work- shelf areas for placing writing materials will enhance use. Simultaneously, height considerations will enhance use for younger children or small people. A work space will enhance use for a text telephone user. Development of easy to manipulate cordless telephones will enhance use for consumers with other limitations in mobility or speed. Although many of these accommodations appear to be architectural rather than technical, they are important areas to address.


Incorporating options for text-to-speech technology, increasing volume output and hands-free operation with use of an operator-style headset/transmitter will enhance use. Continuing and improved training of telecommunications personnel having contact with the public will enhance their communication with persons who stutter, have soft or other speech disorders. Simultaneously, improved attitudes will enhance communication with some cognitively limited consumers.

Cognitive Processing

An individual with a learning disability frequently benefits from redundant presentation of information. A telephone with a visual call progress display has increased functionality. Add synthetic speech verification of dialpad keys being pressed, as an option, and functionality is increased even further. Limitations in memory or sequencing are also being addressed in much the same manner, by the use of redundant presentation. Simultaneously, audio or visual features enhance use for blind/low vision or deaf and hard of hearing consumers.

In Conclusion

Telecommunications products/services designed with maximum accessibility for consumers with functional limitations will attract most consumers, including those without obvious limitations. There are some solutions which are specific to a particular limitation, such as braille markings and owner's manuals, puff-and-sip switches for individuals with complete absence or use of upper extremities, or public telephones lowered to accommodate wheelchair users. No single product or service will simultaneously address all the needs of everyone. What is remarkable is how many solutions are simple and compatible with a variety of functional needs. Remarkable too, is the fact that accessible products and services will serve most individuals at some stage in their life, either temporarily or on an ongoing basis.

(Footnotes for last section)

Appendix 1

The World Institute on Disability

The World Institute on Disability is a research, training and policy development center that addresses issues that are central to the goals of integration and independence for persons with disabilities. It has ties to disability organizations and disabled leaders across the globe. It was started in 1983.

WID is committed to independence for all people with disabilities. From the start, the founders envisioned an organization that could address the vast range of issues that shape the lives of people with disabilities. They embarked on the development of a program of research, policy analysis, model-program development, technical assistance and public education. WID's initial objectives were established: independent living programs, demographic and socioeconomic status of the disabled population; personal assistance services; aging and disability issues; and leadership training.

Growth was explosive. By 1987, projects included a national conference on personal assistance services, a training program on empowering people with disabilities at the first Japan-U.S.A. conference and the Second World Assembly for Disabled People's International in the Bahamas. These activities led to the development of a resource center, quarterly newsletters and published reports.

WID also began working with policy-makers in Washington on long term health care. A WID project analyzing access to health care for persons with disabilities led to the production of a report for Congress on health insurance and disability in 1989. That year also saw the WID sponsored Partners in Policymaking, an outstanding training program for parents and disabled people in Minneapolis and nationally. By this time WID had begun a new priority area: access to affordable technology.

All these projects have their roots in the Independent Living Movement. In IL, people with disabilities ask each other - and themselves - what they need. WID's priorities have grown from this questioning. Our foremost priority is adequate Personal Assistance Services (PAS) in this country. Personal assistants help people with disabilities with routine tasks essential to daily living - washing, dressing, toileting, travelling, etc. For people with significant disabilities PAS is critical to independent functioning. It is also a less expensive alternative to institutions. In 1991, WID is hosting a conference on PAS, which will be attended by disability leaders from 40 states and five countries. The conference will focus on developing a national Personal Assistance Services System.

WID is also committed to leadership development and training. The disability movement needs a new generation of effective leaders to continue the work started on behalf of people with disabilities.

WID's work is local, regional, national and international. Locally, WID is building bridges with AIDS organizations to apply successful IL approaches to AIDS service provision. This project is especially timely as AIDS evolves into a chronic disabling disease. This expansion to a new group of people with disabilities builds a unique and powerful coalition between the IL and AIDS communities.

In California, WID is working with MediCal, Rural Health, Rehabilitation, and Developmental Services about testing a new approach to providing adequate health services to disabled people. The innovative solutions in discussion include the possibility of a Health Maintenance Organization and linking health care facilities, Independent Living Centers (ILCs) and other human service groups. This would introduce an independent living approach to public health care delivery, allowing people to be their own service managers and giving them more control over their own health care. Nationally, WID works with a variety of groups and individuals, participating in many coalitions of grassroots disability groups to address important issues. WID has provided education and technical assistance to a wide range of policy makers, legislators and change agents, particularly in long term health care policy issues and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), civil rights legislation for people with disabilities which was passed last year.

WID is also approaching independence for people with disabilities by working with the business community. The more than 46 million Americans with disabilities are a huge, untapped market for businesses. WID is developing Marketing to People with Disabilities, a workshop series for the business community that will present people with disabilities as a purchasing power, covering demographics, effective marketing strategies, and promoting the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) as an opportunity to reach this market. Representatives from Chaskin and Masten, Dakin, Inc., GTE, MCI, Levi-Strauss, Pacific Bell, Pacific Gas & Electric, Ross Stores, Sea-Land and Target Stores, Inc. have agreed to join a project Business Advisory Council.

WID is also launching WIDNet this fall. WIDNet is an internationally accessible public telecommunications network that will provide comprehensive communications links between disabled individuals, communities, government, and service providers everywhere. Using adaptive computing machinery blind people can see what is happening in the world around them, deaf people can hear directly from anyone, speech disabled people can be eloquent, physically disabled people can get to needed information easily, and environmentally disabled people can do so safely. With a personal computer and modem connected to a telephone line disabled people anywhere can use WIDNet to get involved with one another - to break out of isolation and come together to work on policy projects of mutual benefit.

WID's international division works with and in developing and industrialized countries on issues regarding people with disabilities. WID has developed close ties with a variety of nations, including Japan, Finland, Sweden and a host of South American and African countries. The International Division has conducted training programs, in which disability leaders from developing countries around the world have come to WID for a training and information exchange on Independent Living.

WID Board of Directors

Joan Abrahamson
President, Jefferson Institute

Charles LaFollette
Governor, Pacific Stock Exchange

Bruce Alan Kiernan
Vice President, Union Theological Seminary

Philip R. Lee, M.D.
Professor of Social Medicine, Institute for Health Policy Studies

Russell E. O'Connell
President, Organization Development Services, Inc.

Max Starkloff
Executive Director, Paraquad

Irving K. Zola
Professor of Sociology, Brandeis University

Edward V. Roberts
President, World Institute on Disability

Judith E. Heumann
Vice President, World Institute on Disability

Joan Leon
Vice President, World Institute on Disability

Appendix 2

Blue Ribbon Panel Meeting Agenda

Gallaudet University
Learning Center, LN-11
800 Florida Avenue, N.E. - Washington, D.C.
May 9 & 10, 1990

Wednesday, May 9

9:00 - 9:30am Introductions and Opening Remarks

9:30 - 10:45am Panel on Telecommunications Relay

10:45 - 11:00am Break

11:00am - 12:30pm Presentation on Future Technologies and Dual Party Relay

12:30 - 1:30pm Lunch

1:30 - 3:00pm Presentations on Emergency Services

3:00 - 3:15pm Break

3:15 - 4:30pm Presentation on Legal Aspects of Access to Directory Services

4:30 - 5:00pm General Discussion

5:30 - 7:00pm Reception

Thursday, May 10

9:00 - 10:30am Presentation on Equipment Programs

10:30am - 12:00pm Group Discussion about Survey of Existing Programs and Services

12:00 - 1:00pm Lunch

1:00 - 2:00pm Group Discussion to set agenda and date for next Blue Ribbon Panel Meeting

Blue Ribbon Panel Meeting Agenda

Ginn House - Preservation Park
660 13th Street - Oakland, California

November 8 & 9, 1990

November 8

9:00 - 9:30am Introductions, Overview of Agenda

9:30am - 12:00pm Videotex - Present and Future Applications

12:00 - 1:15pm Lunch

1:15 - 2:15pm Small discussion groups, re: draft reports These small groups will be mixed: industry reps, panelists and invited guests

2:15 - 3:15pm International, Sweden

3:15 - 3:30pm Break

3:30 - 4:30pm International, France

4:30 - 6:00pm Demonstration of technology at WID and media briefing

6:00 - 7:30pm Reception at WID

November 9

9:00 - 11:00am Voice Processing

11:00 - 11:15am Break

11:15am - 12:15pm Small discussion groups: 2 panel groups, 2 or 1 industry group, 1 group of others

12:30am - 1:45pm Lunch

2:00 - 3:15pm Real-Time Video

3:30 - 4:30pm Reports from small groups and general discussion on 2nd year activities

Blue Ribbon Panel Meeting Agenda

Salon D - Holiday Inn - Crowne Plaza
775 12th Street N.W. - Washington, D.C.

March 4 & 5, 1991

Monday, March 4

8:30 - 9:00am Registration and Coffee

9:00 - 9:15am Welcome and Introductions

9:15 - 10:15am ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Briefing

10:15 - 10:30am Break

10:30am - 12:00pm ATBCB (Architecture & Transportation Barrier Compliance Board) ADA regulations

12:00 - 1:30pm Working Lunch: Review of draft report and discussion

1:30 - 3:00pm Cable Issues

3:00 - 3:15pm Break

3:15 - 4:30pm Department of Justice Presentation on Public Accommodations

Tuesday, March 5

9:00 - 10:00am Continuation of discussion, re: draft report

10:00 - 10:15am Break

10:15 - 11:30am Review of first year's activities and planning for next year

11:30am - 1:00pm Working lunch

1:00 - 2:30pm Discussion of the development of standards, re: access to telecommunications

2:30 - 3:00pm Transit to FCC

3:00 - 4:00pm Blue Ribbon Panel Meeting

4:15 - 5:00pm Blue Ribbon Panel Meeting