Industry and Accessbility Advocates Reach Consensus on Hearing Aid Compatibility for Wireless Handsets

mobile phoneThe Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), CTIA – The Wireless Association®, Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (TDI), and National Association of the Deaf (NAD) announced a consensus proposal to enhance benchmarks for wireless hearing aid compatibility (HAC) regulations.

The consensus proposal, submitted last month in a letter to the FCC, is the result of months of dialogue and collaboration between the wireless industry and advocates for those with hearing loss. The new proposal outlines a phased approach to increase HAC benchmarks for wireless handset manufacturers and carriers over the next eight years.

James Reid, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, TIA said: “In recent years, significant improvements in hearing aid compatibility for wireless handsets have been made due to industry’s innovation and collaboration with the accessibility community. This consensus proposal is another example of the commitment of wireless handset manufacturers and carriers in this area. Along with our industry partners and accessibility advocates, TIA urges the FCC to adopt this proposal that will provide the flexibility needed for industry to continue to innovate and grow, while diligently working to meet the needs of consumers with hearing loss.”

Scott Bergmann, Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, CTIA said: “CTIA is grateful for the collaborative efforts undertaken by the wireless industry and advocates for the deaf and hard of hearing to come to a consensus agreement on hearing aid compatibility that is a true win-win-win for consumers, the FCC and the wireless industry. This proposal puts industry on a path toward achieving the shared goal of making all wireless devices accessible to persons who are deaf or hard of hearing while recognizing the important role that innovation plays in ensuring all consumers have access to devices that meet their needs. The wireless industry’s commitment to accessibility already resulted in HAC compliance that exceeds the FCC’s existing rules, and CTIA looks forward to continuing to work with the Commission, consumer advocates and industry partners to further advance this goal.”

Rebecca Murphy Thompson, General Counsel, CCA said: “CCA has long supported the goal of all wireless handsets being HAC compliant, and we are pleased to have joined the hearing loss community, along with CTIA and TIA, to devise a consensus proposal that strives to accomplish that goal.  In particular, the signatories commit to pursue 100% HAC compliance in a reasonable timeframe while also taking into account innovations that can benefit all consumers, including individuals with hearing loss, rural Americans and low-income consumers.  We thank the Commission for the opportunity to submit the consensus proposal and look forward to continued discussions to accomplish our shared commitment to providing accessible wireless services and equipment to all Americans.”

Anna Gilmore Hall, Executive Director, HLAA said: “The FCC consensus letter for HAC phones is an historic agreement. It is the first time in 12 years – since the adoption of any rules for hearing aid compatibility with wireless phones – that we have seen further benchmarks and greater oversight and accountability in this area. What has been accomplished between the FCC, HLAA, TIA, CTIA, CCA, NAD and TDI is the result of a tireless effort over many months to ensure this was brought to fruition. HLAA would like to especially recognize FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in this effort, who has made access to telecommunications for people with disabilities a hallmark of his tenure.”

Claude Stout, Executive Director, TDI said: “We deeply appreciate the Commission’s work on the proposed Hearing Aid Compatibility requirements. We look forward to working with industry to implement the Commission’s eventual requirements toward 100% compliance. This will be an additional part of our unified goal toward reaching universal design for all Americans.  Individuals without disabilities get benefits, too from the design/manufacturing and standards development processes such as curb cuts and captioning decoder capability on TV sets and computers.”

Howard Rosenblum, Chief Executive Officer, NAD, said: “The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is pleased that the wireless industry positively engaged with consumer advocates in reaching this historic agreement. This is an important step towards achieving 100% hearing aid compatibility for phones and we look forward to continued collaboration on this issue.”

The FCC considered an NPRM on wireless hearing aid compatibility at an opening meeting on November 19, 2015.

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