Deaf, hearing loss organizations unite for wireless access

Organizations representing the Deaf and partially deaf communities joined efforts to make wireless handsets accessible for hearing aids and cochlear implants. This includes cordless and mobile phones.

According to an article by the Hearing Loss Association of America, “When mobile technology moved from analog to digital in the 1990s, it created a huge barrier for people with hearing loss in that suddenly people with hearing loss who could use wireless handsets were faced with interference when they held the phone to their ear.”

a young woman talking to herself on the tin can phone
Many phones still aren’t accessible for hearing aids and cochlear implants.

Currently, 82 percent of mobile phones on the market are accessible for hearing technology. Only 66 percent of cordless phones are accessible. The association said it has joined with organizations to ensure greater telecommunications accessibility.

Man talks to video image
There’s an 18 percent chance this man’s mobile phone isn’t accessible for hearing aids or cochlear implants.

To do this, the association filed comment with the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC.

“We were joined in this filing by the Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (TDI) and the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). Together we make it clear that our goal has remained unchanged: we want to see 100 percent of wireless handsets built to be hearing aid compatible,” according to the association’s website.

Number 66
Percent of wireless handsets the phone industry had proposed to have accessible for hearing aids and cochlear implants. Advocate organizations for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community said that’s not enough.

According to a comment from the three organizations, “It’s our understanding that the Industry is proposing a modification of the HAC rule to require both manufacturers and service providers to increase the percentage of M-and T-rated HAC wireless handsets they sell to 66% . . . If adopted, Industry’s proposal would leave fully a third of wireless handsets potentially unusable for people with hearing aids or cochlear implants.”

The consumer groups “look forward to working with the Industry and the Commission to ensure greater access to wireless handsets for all consumers with hearing loss,” according to the comment.

 

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