VisionAware: The iCanConnect Campaign Supports Accessible Technology for Deaf-Blind, Low-Income Individuals

January 22, 2013
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Posted on 1/17/2013
by Maureen Duffy

The new iCanConnect campaign will provide support for the local distribution of accessible communications technology for low-income individuals with combined hearing and vision loss. The following article is adapted, with permission, from the January 2013 issue of AccessWorld®: Technology and People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired, the monthly online magazine from American Foundation for the Blind. AccessWorld presents objective information, informed commentary, and cutting-edge news and trends about information technology and visual impairment.

The National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program

Many thousands of Americans who have combined loss of hearing and vision may soon connect with family, friends, and community, thanks to the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program. Mandated by the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established this new program to provide support for the local distribution of a wide array of accessible communications technology.

The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, championed in Washington, DC by Congressman Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts and Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, acknowledges that advances in technology can revolutionize lives. Nearly one million people in the United States have some combination of vision and hearing loss.

iCanConnect: A National Outreach Campaign

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 for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults, and FableVision.

iCanConnect is seeking to increase awareness about the availability of communications technology for this underserved population, so that people who are deaf-blind and have limited income can remain safe and healthy, hold jobs, manage their households, and contribute to the economy and the community.

iCanConnect will also seek to ensure that consumers and families will know about the free communications technology and training that is now available. From screen enlargement software and video phones to off-the-shelf products that are accessible or adaptable, this technology can vastly improve quality of life for deaf-blind persons.

Individuals 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 iCanConnect program.

The iCanConnect Sponsors

"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."

"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, adding, "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 FableVision Studios. "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." Reynolds adds, "Now everyone is invited to the technology promise powering the human network."

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