CES 2016: FCC Searching for Accessibility Innovators

Complete Coverage: CES 2016

The FCC said it will start accepting nominations Jan. 11 (through March 31) for its fifth Chairman's Awards for Advancement in Accessibility (essentially a triple A rating).

That came the same day the chairman was talking passionately at the CES show in Las Vegas about the need and obligation to use new technology—in combination with the government's regulatory powers—to promote and expand communications accessibility, which he said needs to be "a forethought, not an afterthought."

The awards are for "outstanding private and public sector ventures designed to advance accessibility for people with disabilities" introduced in calendar year 2015.

Those can be new products or standards or improvements on existing products. The chairman is looking in particular for technologies that help those with cognitive disabilities better use 21st century communications tools.

Consumer Technology Association president Gary Shapiro pointed out during his interview with Wheeler at the show that the FCC had met all the major rulemaking benchmarks set by the Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) five years ago, which he called unprecedented in Washington. In turn, Wheeler thanked Shapiro and his members for their support.

Wheeler said that the digital revolution "offers an unprecedented opportunity to attack the challenges of people with disabilities."

Those who feel they have done so can submit a nomination (or questions about the process) to ChairmansAAA@fcc.gov. Not surprisingly, for those nominees who need it, "reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities are available upon request."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.