Innovation and Inclusion: The Americans with Disabilities Act at 20

May 27, 2010 at 9:47 pm Leave a comment

Tony TrottI attended the Senate Hearing on Innovation and Inclusion: The Americans with Disabilities Act at 20 yesterday in the Russell Senate Office Building.

I thought there was a good number of attendees there to hear remarks by Sen. John F. Kerry Chairman, U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, Congressman Edward Markey (D-MA.), Russell Harvard (a deaf actor), Brian Pearce (an Iraq Vet who lost most of his vision and part of his hearing in an IED explosion), Thomas Wlodkowski (Accessibility Director, AOL Inc.), Bobbie Beth Scoggins (President National Association of the Deaf), and Walter McCormick (President and Chief Executive Officer United States Telecom Association). Unfortunately, the only committee members present to hear the live testimony and ask questions were Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). There were various staff members there so presumably other committee members were interested in the topic of the Hearing but just couldn’t attend.

The Hearing was about ways in which current laws can be, as Sen. Kerry put it in his opening statement, “in sync with the modern communications market.”

The first Panel was only Congressman Markey and he said that just as George H.W. Bush said when signing the ADA in 1990, “let the shameful walls of exclusion finally come tumbling down” we must take action so that there are not any new walls erected. Those new walls may be, “virtual, wireless, composed of zeros and ones” so we must be vigilant because these new types of barriers can be just as exclusionary.

The second Panel consisted of the other 5 people mentioned above. The first to offer testimony was Brian Pearce and he spoke of his challenges and his fears of ‘having his wife have to tell me what the emergency crawls are on the television’ because yjry are too small to read.  He also spoke about his frustrations when trying to find a phone that is accessible. Next was Thomas Wlodkowski who said that “flexibility” was one of the biggest things to keep in mind when making things accessible to all.

Bobbie Beth Scoggins was next and she brought up many of the benefits that are written into S3304 and she encouraged Congress to make “S3304 the strongest possible legislation that will ensure…access to the Internet and digital communication tools that are needed to (enable them to) maintain and increase (their) independence, productivity, and privacy.” She was followed up by Russell Harvard who spoke about his feeling left behind from his peers when videos on the Internet are not captioned and he encouraged Congress to require captioning options on all video devices. The final speaker was Walter McCormick and he said that “As these new and exciting technologies evolve, (people with disabilities) could become increasingly disadvantaged if they are denied access to them.”

The hearing left me quite hopeful that Congress will take care  to make sure the ADA is properly updated in order to keep pace with new technologies.

By Tony Trott, ECNV Peer Mentor & Editor

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Entry filed under: ADA, Advocacy, Deaf/HoH -- Vlog. Tags: , .

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