(by Dakotah Hamilton, TLPC Student Attorney)
On June 7th, the TLPC and the Communications and Technology Law Clinic (CTLC) at Georgetown Law filed a comment on behalf of 22 accessibility advocacy and research organizations, including TLPC and CTLC client Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (TDI), in response to the Federal Communications Commission’s public notice to revisit many of its rules under the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA). The comment, drafted by Professor Blake E. Reid, TLPC Director, and Professor Laura Moy, CTLC Director, with assistance from TLPC student attorneys Dakotah Hamilton, Rachel Hersch, and Scott Goodstein and CTLC staff attorney Michael Rosenbloom and student attorney Ellen Gardiner, comprehensively reviewed the past decade of FCC proceedings implementing the CVAA as well as some dating back to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, spanning more than two dozen dockets.
The comment identifies numorous specific priorities the FCC should consider for the accessibility of video programming, communications, and hearing device accessibility, including bolstering the availability of interpretation and captioning for video conferencing platforms and expanding captioning requirements for video distributed online. The comment also calls for dedicated inquiries into accessibility barriers facing people who are deaf or hard of hearing and have multiple disabilities, older people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and people who are deaf or hard of hearing and living on rural or tribal lands or in U.S. territories. The comment also urges the Commission to emphasize supervised multistakeholderism, centering the civil rights of people with disabilities, vigorous enforcement, and reporting to Congress.
In light of the ongoing pandemic, emergency call centers (ECCs) and public safety answering points (PSAPs) are faced with the question of whether to screen callers for COVID-19. The benefits of this screening will protect first responders—but on the other hand, ECC/PSAPs are concerned that screening callers may raise legal issues.
TLPC student attorney Kelsey Fayer drafted a white paper addressing whether ECC/PSAPs need to comply with privacy laws. First, caller screening information, if it is voluntary, likely satisfies relevant compliance requirements. Second, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) likely does not apply to PSAP/ECCs regarding a caller’s COVID-19 status. Finally, PSAP/ECCs should work with local public health authorities to implement privacy best practices. The white paper includes a 50-state chart mapping current PSAP/ECC practices around screening callers and state health privacy laws that may be applicable to PSAP/ECC COVID-19 caller queries.
(by Jake Stephens, Colorado Law 2L)
Student attorney Jake Stephens wrote a white paper updating federal and Colorado regulatory frameworks governing 911 accessibility, updating a white paper on the same topic published by the TLPC in 2015. This update covers recent developments in 911 access regulatory dockets at the FCC, a summary of a withdrawal of proposed updates to 911 accessibility regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act by the Department of Justice, and a glimpse into state 911 accessibility regulations with Colorado as the case study.
This semester, TLPC student attorneys Victoria Naifeh, Allison Daley, and Elizabeth Chance and student technologist Jeff Ward-Bailey worked with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission’s 911 task force to research the legal landscape surrounding 911 accessibility for the deaf, deaf-blind, hard of hearing, and speech disabled communities in Colorado. The final project, a white paper summarizing the research, is now available here and on the the Social Sciences Research Network: