Disability Related Sections Of The Telecommunications Act 1996


The Telecommunications Act was signed into law on February 8,1996. It has laid down various provisions for the beneficial usage of modern communication systems by people with disabilities. Section 255(e) is the main section of this law which deals with matters related to physically challenged people. The primary tenet of this law is that the Access Board and the Federal Communications Commission shall develop and implement guidelines of accessibility for the telecom equipment. These guidelines shall apply to both- the service providing equipment as well as the end customer equipment. Telecommunications Act also dealt with addressing other issues that were plaguing the telecom industry but its disability related sections have become very important.

Section 255
The section 255 deals with ensuring access for persons with disabilities. The term 'Disability' is considered to be the same as laid down in Section 3(2) (A) of Americans with Disabilities Act. The section requires that any company involved in design of telecommunication equipment shall be required to make its products accessible for people who have disabilities. This also includes mass production of equipment in a disabled friendly manner. Furthermore the section requires that all carriers (telecommunication service providers) should ensure that their services are easily accessible by people who are handicapped. This includes any and all types of 'telecommunication' services being provided by the carrier.

Section 255 also addresses compatibility issues with equipment for disabled support. A number of hearing and visual assistance devices are available in the market for people with special physical needs. It is required that equipment makers and carriers should make their products and services compatible with the existing accessibility equipment. Another important tenet of the Telecommunications Act, Section 255 is that the Architectural Transportation Barriers Compliance Board shall bring accessibility guidelines for all the telecommunication related guidelines. This was to be done within 18 months of the passage of the law and was to be done in collaboration with the Federal Communications Commission.

The section also makes provision that the privacy rights shall not be impacted by the provisions of this law and that only the Commission shall have appropriate jurisdiction against the violations of this Act.  

Section 251
Section 251 of the Telecommunications Act provides for interconnection between the equipment and other facilities of different telecom companies. Furthermore, it forbids any equipment or service which is not in compliance with Sections 255 and 256 of this Act.

Section 305
Section 305 provides for accessibility in the video programming. The primary task within this section is to ensure close captioning the video content so that people with hearing problems can easily understand what is being said. The provision of audible video description has also been made  in the section for the visually challenged.

All in all, this Act has made it possible for the people with disabilities to make better use of telecommunication facilities available to the normal people.