Thousands of Americans who have combined hearing and vision loss may soon connect with family, friends, and community through the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program. Mandated by the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established the new program to provide support for the local distribution of a wide array of accessible communications technology.
The FCC is also funding a national outreach campaign to educate the public about this new program. The iCanConnect campaign will be conducted jointly by Perkins School for the Blind, the Helen Keller National Center, and FableVision.
iCanConnect will seek to ensure that everyone knows about the free communications technology and training that are now available to low-income individuals with combined hearing and vision loss. From screen enlargement software and video phones, to off-the-shelf products that are accessible or adaptable, this technology can vastly improve their quality of life.
iCanConnect aims to educate people about the availability of communications technology for this underserved population so they can remain safe and healthy, hold a job, manage a household, and contribute to the economy and the community.
“With the right technology, people with disabilities can link to information and ideas, be productive, and move ahead,” said Steven Rothstein, president of Perkins. “Perkins’ most famous student, Helen Keller, exemplified the potential of a person who is deaf-blind. We are proud to have a role in this transformational program.”
Perkins School for the Blind, the first school in the U.S. for students with visual impairments, offers education and services to more than 200,000 children and adults in the U.S. and more than 60 countries worldwide.
The CVAA, championed in Washington, D.C., by Congressman Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts and Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, acknowledges that advances in technology can revolutionize lives. Nearly 1 million people in the United States have some combination of vision and hearing loss. Persons with combined loss of vision and hearing as defined by the Helen Keller National Center Act, whose income does not exceed 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, are eligible to participate in the new program.
“The mission of the Helen Keller National Center is to enable each person who is deaf-blind to live and work in his or her community of choice,” explains Executive Director Joe McNulty. “This critical technology access program accelerates those efforts, but only if people know about the resources. iCanConnect is poised to get the word out, coast to coast.”
“FableVision’s mission is to help ALL learners reach their full potential,” said Paul Reynolds, CEO of the multimedia design and development studio. “With this program we advance that mission – helping spread the word about equal access to tools that offer those with hearing and vision loss the transformational power of technology. Now everyone is invited to the technology promise powering the human network.”