September 9, HLAA attended the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Emergency Access Advisory Committee (EAAC) meeting. The Twenty First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) required the FCC to establish the EAAC to prepare recommendations on ways to ensure that people with disabilities have access to Next Generation 911 emergency services.
Currently, the only people in America who can successfully send a text message to 9-1-1 answering centers, called PSAPs – Public Safety Answering Points, live in Sacramento, California, and Black Hawk County, Iowa. Efforts are underway to upgrade the 9-1-1 system across the country so that anyone can reach 9-1-1 via voice, text, email, or video, but it will take some time before that system is in place. The new system is referred to as Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1).
At the EAAC meeting, Jim Nixon for ATIS (Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions) reported that Industry groups are actively working on solutions to the problem of access to 9-1-1 for people who rely on text or emails to communicate. ATIS is seeking a solution that would be available by June of 2012, that would have minimal impact on PSAPs as well as consumers, that would be easy to use, not proprietary, would give the PSAP the ability to record and log calls, and would be able to communicate in a secure and private way.
There was also a report from Dr. Gregg Vanderheiden from the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Telecommunications Access (RERC-TA) making a case for text messaging to PSAPs that more closely mirrored voice communication by providing a letter by letter transmission that allows the operator to see and possibly respond to the message as its being typed. The RERC-TA also suggested establishing a central text messaging center for 9-1-1 calls, rather than depending on each and every PSAP to upgrade their local system to accept text messaging.
The next EAAC meeting is coming up soon: Friday, October 14, 2011 from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the FCC Headquarters, 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20554, in the Commission meeting room. The meeting is open to the public and will be webcast live at www.fcc.gov/live.
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