What standards exist for developing and purchasing accessible telecommunications products?

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AccessIT Article ID: 1099

"Section 255 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, require[s] manufacturers of telecommunications equipment and providers of telecommunications services to ensure that such equipment and services are accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, if readily achievable. These amendments ensure that people with disabilities will have access to a broad range of products and services such as telephones, cell phones, pagers, call-waiting, and operator services that were often inaccessible to many users with disabilities" (source: U.S. Department of Justice in A Guide to Disability Rights Laws). Additional information about these requirements is available on the FCC Disabilities Issues home page.

Other pertinent legislation is Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in 1998. Section 508 requires accessibility of electronic and information technology (E&IT) that is developed, maintained, procured, or used by the federal government. The Access Board developed standards in response to Section 508, which were published into the Federal Register in December 2000. The Access Board standards specifically define accessibility for several categories of E&IT, including telecommunications products. Full detail on these standards, including explanations and examples, is available in the Telecommunication Products section of the Access Board's Guide to the Standards.

Section 255 and Section 508 standards are similar and thus promote cooperation between those who develop and those who purchase telecommunications products.

Last update or review: November 16, 2012