Jennifer Simpson Interview with NextGenWeb July 8, 2009

Geoff Basye, NextGenWeb: As the FCC continues to accept public comments as it works to integrate a national broadband strategy due to the president in February. NextGenWeb joins with Jennifer Simpson with the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology. We appreciate you spending time with us today. Lets talk about the mission of the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology. Could you discuss the mission and highlight its members? Jennifer Simpson, American Association of People with Disabilities: We refer to ourselves as COAT. Our mission is to advocate for legislative and regulatory safeguards that will ensure full access by people with disabilities to evolving high speed broadband, wireless and other Internet Protocol (IP) technologies. The basic idea is that we don’t want people with sensory disabilities to get left behind in the technology marketplace. Our members are mostly nonprofit disability organizations with over 240 affiliates in 47 different states. Of these 90 are national organizations, and 150 are state or local based organizations. The steering committee for COAT consists of five national disability advocacy organizations, these are American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), American Council of the Blind (ACB), American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD), and National Association of the Deaf (NAD).We are all non profit national organizations and have members. COAT affiliates are in 47 of the states and DC. Egs.: Mississippi Association of the Deaf, , Nevada Council of the Blind, Wisconsin Center for Deaf Blind, Independent Living Ctr of Joplin, MO, Hearing Loss Association of Salt Lake UT, etc. We have several captioning and video description organizations as affiliates, as well as some university research centers. COAT, also, has not done any advertising or recruiting for these members, our members joined strictly through word of mouth. We also have 8 International Friends of COAT, organizations or entities in Africa, China, Europe, Australia. We found they were looking to the U.S. for what leadership and implementation we are doing and to let us know of their efforts. The reason why we are so diverse and have grown so strong is simply because of our agenda. We started with 5 organizations in March 2007 and we are huge now. We have never recruited affiliate membership. It is all because of what we stand for and are asking for. What COAT is asking for here is the Commission takes the bold step of building into the national broadband plan the principle of disability accessibility. That is, the incorporate the underlying non-discrimination principles found in the Americans with Disabilities Act


(ADA) into the national plan. I don’t think any other country in the world that has a national broadband plan has incorporated such a principle. I would like to see the U.S. be the leader here with the national broadband plan. This principle would pertain to uses, applications and other ways that broadband is used.

Geoff Basye, NextGenWeb: That a great seg-way to my next question. For the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology’s recent NOI (Notice of Inquiry),the filing submitted to the Federal Communications Commission, you state urge “that all members of the target population should have access to broadband in a manner that is effective, accessible, and affordable, and explore ways to maximize broadband utilization within the target population” Can you please elaborate on this point?

Jennifer Simpson, American Association of People with Disabilities: First of all, COAT sees people with disabilities as members of the target population that are underserved in the nation’s broadband plan. This is because, for a number of mostly sociological reasons, such as income and education, people with disabilities are among the least likely to own computers, have internet access or to use the internet the same way others might. We are asking the FCC to make sure that they don’t leave us out and for the first time to have a national plan that makes sure that this underserved population is considered from the point of view of the principal. AAPD believes the FCC should make the point to see the way to put the US at the forefront of broadband. By effective access we mean being able to use the machinery to get online. This is about having a computer, being able to operate it and use it for the purpose that the user wants. That is, if all of this is on site, there are no policy or protocol barriers to personal use. This is also about relevant applications that work for people with disabilities that have been developed as a result of focus group and consumer work with people with disabilities. It’s not about what other people think people with disabilities should have. Difference is whether it’s done FOR people with disabilities or it originates from the needs of people with disabilities. Sometimes applications for the mainstream work for our community, e.g., AOL Instant Messaging was a huge step forward for the deaf community, they are vey text directed using community and other text messaging. But GPS and mobile connection to broadband offer some interesting directions for people with disabilities. Designers and developers of new products should be thinking through the needs of consumers with disabilities when they think about navigation and location technologies. By accessible, we mean that the user with a disability has physical access to the computer or internet access site. Too often public sites internet access are not actually physically accessible to a wheelchair user or other disabled individual , they have odd barriers and protocols at the location, we are looking at broadband deployment for residential use as a


great way to bring out the community into the broadband forefront. It also means that all the applications customarily used to operate the computer and access the Internet have been designed, developed and fabricated with the full range of users in mind. For instance, web sites must be accessible to users with vision disabilities, this about the content as well as the sites design and the tools the sites design. Also for people with hearing disabilities, content that is audio should be captioned or texted. More and more we are seeing television, video clips, old movies, etc showing up on the internet simultaneous or as its occurring. Broadband helps support that need. By affordable, our community has one of the highest rates of unemployment, currently a 14 percent rate in the community. We mean that a person with a disability can purchase a computer, with internet access and broadband, perhaps with a longer purchase payback time, subscribe to an ISP at a discounted/more affordable rate (such as through use of the Universal Service lifeline linkup program), and be able to purchase what others with high rates of employment and greater means may have less difficulty in purchasing. Geoff Basye, NextGenWeb: Jennifer you are raising a lot of great points today. We appreciate your time in sharing with the audience your company’s stance on issues and we look forward to talking to you in the future.