Blind, deaf pushing for Internet access

Blind, deaf pushing for Internet access | The Journal Gazette | Fort Wayne, IN.

Blind, deaf pushing for Internet access

WASHINGTON – Blind and deaf consumers, who have fought to make home phones and television more accessible, say they are now being left behind on the Web and many mobile devices.

Touch-based smart-phone screens confound blind people who rely on buttons and raised type. Web video means little to the deaf without captioning.

But legislation is in the works to put the same pressure on consumer electronics companies that revolutionized an earlier generation of technology for the vision- and hearing-impaired.

“Whether it’s a Braille reader or a broadband connection, access to technology is not a political issue – it’s a participation issue,” said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., the author of a House bill aimed at making the Internet more accessible to people with disabilities. “We’ve moved from Braille to broadcast, from broadband to the BlackBerry. We’ve moved from spelling letters in someone’s palm to the Palm Pilot. And we must make all of these devices accessible.”

The consumer electronics, entertainment and communications industries have been slow to include those with disabilities, some lawmakers and advocates say. Big companies have fought against government regulators dictating new technical requirements, saying the industry is better equipped to make its own engineering decisions.

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