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FCC and National Institute on Aging to partner on research advancing accessibility to communications for Americans with hearing disabilities



December 12, 2013

Mark Wigfield, FCC | (202) 418-0253 | mark.wigfield@fcc.gov
Barbara Cire, NIA | (301) 496-1752 | nianews3@mail.nih.gov



Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) Deputy Director Dr. Marie A. Bernard signed an agreement today to partner on research into the use of modern IP technology to improve and make more accessible phone service to Americans who are deaf, deaf-blind, or hard of hearing.

Under the joint agreement, the FCC will collaborate with the NIA to develop and support research plans for assessing Internet Protocol (IP) technologies that can benefit older adults with hearing disabilities or deafness. Such benefits could be incorporated into the FCC’s Interstate Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS) program, which enables people with disabilities to do what most Americans take for granted: make a simple phone call.

“The IP transitions are upon us and so is the obligation for the FCC to invite a diverse set of experiments that will allow the Commission and the public to understand how the IP transitions can further important social goals, including access for all Americans,” said Chairman Wheeler. “Today’s Memorandum of Understanding will allow the FCC to work with other expert agencies to increase knowledge on how next-generation networks can best serve the needs of older Americans and those with disabilities.”

Deputy Director Bernard added, “This effort addresses a critical need to leverage expertise and resources in a world of rapidly changing technologies where we have a unique opportunity to find and use the best technologies to improve the lives of older people and those with special needs. NIA is pleased to be involved with this initiative.”

The interagency Memorandum of Understanding establishes guidelines for the two agencies to work together on objective, rigorous research into the current and anticipated use of IP-based relay technologies to provide service to people who are deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing. Specifically, the research plans will assess and evaluate the effectiveness, efficiency and consumer response to current and future approaches to delivering TRS, including automated speech-to-text and video plus automated speech-to-text technologies.


The FCC regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. An independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress, the commission is the United States' primary authority for communications law, regulation and technological innovation. For more information, go to www.fcc.gov.

The NIA leads the federal effort supporting and conducting research on aging and the medical, social and behavioral issues of older people. The Institute’s broad scientific program seeks to understand the nature of aging and to extend the healthy, active years of life. For more information on research and aging, go to www.nia.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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