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Field Hearing: People With Disabilities Need Minor Modifications for Broadband to Work

in Broadband's Impact/FCC Workshops/National Broadband Plan by

WASHINGTON, November 9, 2009 – Panelists at a Federal Communications Commission field hearing on Friday agreed that there should be a national broadband plan that made high-speed internet connections accessible to everyone, including those with hearing, visual and other disabilities.

“A national broadband plan is not national if not accessible to everyone,” said Michael Richert, director of public policy for the American Foundation for the Blind.

Thus far, people with hearing or visual disabilities have been limited to the resources that are offered to those without disabilities. And those have been inadequate to meet the special needs of people with disabilities, panelists said.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said that soon after he first became a commissioner in 2001, he went to speak in Sioux Falls, S.D. The unemployment of the hearing disabled community was at 75 percent, he said.

“Broadband can impact education and the environment of the people with disabilities,” said Jay Wyant, president of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

With the speed increase that broadband offers vis-à-vis dial-up services, and with appropriate technology, people with disabilities are able to work from home and attend class at home. That can be useful when there are no educational facilities adaptable to students with disabilities.

However, the issue of getting the technology is not the only challenge that needs to be overcome. Educating the people using the technology is another problem.

“It is a huge issue,” said Wyant. “Parents of deaf children have no background in hearing loss.” Creating easy-to-use pieces of technology will therefore benefit both the disabled person as well as the person’s family.

“People, not just those with disabilities, but everyone, needs broadband to look for jobs and the digital literacy to do so,” said Janis Kohe, vice president of employment services division of the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation of Kansas.

According to Alan Hubbard, chief operating officer of the National Telecommuting Institute, there are around 120 agents with disabilities working from home and without broadband they would not be able to do their job and probably would not have their jobs.

Another way that broadband could be of benefit to those with hearing or visual disabilities, as well as other consumers, is the affect that broadband is going to have on enhance 911 services, or E911.

According to Patrick Halley, government affairs director of the National Emergency Number Association, an internet protocol-based E911 service could be more accessible for those with disabilities, by creating a text-based communication as well as video connections.

With broadband, a video connection could be made with a person who has a hearing disability, and an interpreter would be able to give them instructions of what to over the video connection.

“IP-based 911 will be accessible to everyone,” said Halley.” Through this people will be able text, send video, images, photos to the emergency center,” he said. “It will be beneficial to everyone in the system.”

“People with disabilities cannot afford second class technology,” said Karen Peltz Strauss, co-chair of the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology.

While at the same time, according to Ari Ne’eman, founding president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, affordability has to be kept in mind considering where these people are coming from.

An intern at the National Journalism Center and a student at American University’s Washington Semester Program, Christina is a Reporter-Researcher for She is a student at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota.


  1. Neurodiversity? I don’t see it in the Ari Ne’eman crowd. At least not until they openly acknowledge people like my son and stop pretending autistic persons like him, don’t exist. My videos on you tube of my severely autistic son who suffers from self injurious behaviors have been obsessively attacked by some in the neurodiversity movement. Like children having a tantrum, they repeatedly give thumbs down to anyone who applauds me for showing real sides of real severe autism. This is very telling. This shows these alleged advocates for autism are probably not autistic. Consider Rain Man, could U imagine this sweet guy (based on real life person) trolling you tube and attacking a mother like me who has been through hell trying to help my son? It wouldn’t even occur to him, or even Temple Grandin, who has severe Aspergers, to act like or do this. But so called “auties” and “aspies” who hate my guts now, are on a rampage to villify me and downplay my son’s condition because it threatens to expose their narrow driven movement that FAILS or willfully ignores autistic peole like my darling son. Please go to you tube and see the video “autism epidemic out of control.” Many of my friends and family members are helping me spread word about this because it is really scary that such hate, intolerance and outright mean spirited attacks would come against me and my son or anyone else who is dealing with serious issues like self injury. We just want to be included. Why such prejudice against us from the neodiversity crowd? Why such hate? Mockery? It is simply unreal that these neurodiversity fanatics are even posting things on “wrong planet” (a good site) like “the mother must feel guilty” or she’s got munchasen by proxy, or “she’s whacked.” This is often funny to me, actually, as I gather their comments and really look at the kind of spirit they have. It is not one of helping people like my son. It is not empathetic. Nor considerate. Nor of love. They are driven by a spirit of self-preservation. They have an agenda. They’ve fooled a lot of people. And cases like my son are driving them crazy. So, they want to shred us. Shut me up. It won’t work. In fact, it will work against them. Some, however, in the neurodiversity movement are really kind, honest and open minded people who have Aspergers and actually acknowledge my son’s severe autism and support us, and for that I am grateful. I wish they could all be so honest and kind. I have a close relative with Aspergers and he in no way would ever downplay my son’s autism or attack it because it made him look bad. Is it too much to ask that my son’s severe autism self injury and seizure challenges are discussed in neurodiversity circles? Why such prejudice against his type of autism? Why downplay it as it he isn’t part of neurodiversity? I think my son’s case baffles and infuriates some neurodiversity folks because when you see him slamming his fists into his head, clearly, this isn’t an autistic person you’d say “to just accept as he is.” Well, the truth is, I accept my son’s autism. But that doesn’t remove the fact that his self injurious behaviors, which are deeply rooted in the autism, can be ignored or ‘celebrated’. This is serious stuff and for a neurodiversity movement to willfully ignore this autsitic population is unethical and shows extreme prejudice. Severe to profound autism is real and must be acknowledged if you claim to really care about autism advocacy. I’m not the type of mom who blames vaccines, by the way. I’m probably baffling to the neurodiversity movement because I share some of their beliefs, but I also am very vocal about how serious self injury is within the more severe sides of autism. They just can’t figure me out. So, sadly, some attack me.

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