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The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!

The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!

June 2010

Editor: I usually avoid commenting on political issues, and I think I can be true to that goal and still comment on this situation. That’s because this is an accessibility issue that Gary Shapiro and others are trying to politicize. The bottom line is that these folks don’t think that new technology should be accessible to people with disabilities – and that’s the crux of THEIR press release (below).

Shapiro is even more forthcoming in a recent Washington Times article entitled “Dems want to redesign your iPhone”, in which he states, “If manufacturers are required to load up every device they sell with an array of new features – some of which may conflict with each other and all of which will add cost and complexity – what will happen to the most affordable products intended for consumers with low incomes? Answer: They’ll become more expensive because of features most people won’t use or need.”

If you’d like to share your thoughts with the folks at CEA, you can send them to Megan Pollack at mpollock@CE.org .

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“Our objective is to meet the needs of disabled Americans while retaining the freedom we need to continue as the greatest innovation creator,” said Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)(r) President and CEO Gary Shapiro in testimony delivered today before a congressional committee. Testifying on behalf of CEA, Shapiro made his comments before a hearing held by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Communications, Telecommunication and the Internet exploring, “The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009.”

Shapiro agreed on the value of a centralized database of all products and services for disabled Americans. He explained CEA’s concern that H.R. 3101, by requiring all Internet connected products and services be accessible by Americans with all disabilities, would freeze technology and deter innovation and entrepreneurs. Shapiro suggested several alternatives to the end goal of providing Americans access to information, education and entertainment. “The legislation before us – H.R. 3101 – is extremely broad in its scope; chilling innovation and the entry of new products. More, it ignores the increasing number of products on the market which serve the needs of many in the disability community.”

Shapiro noted that the current legislation does not take into account the ever changing dynamic of Internet-based services and devices. “We are no longer living in a world of single function devices…The legislation’s attempt to adapt old regulations established to apply to primary function services and devices …to new multi-function devices will not produce the desired result, and will only impede the advancement of new technologies and accessible features.”

Shapiro suggested several amendments to H.R. 3101. “It is a core CEA belief that the development of technical standards must be left to consensus-based industry standards bodies, rather than government agencies or Congress …CEA has proposed the development of an advisory committee consisting of all affected stakeholders working together to develop industry-led technical solutions for IP-based video programming services and devices.” Already, CEA has established working groups to tackle remote control usability by the visually impaired and to address closed captioning in a digital age.

“We are also concerned about the draconian fines on manufacturers if they do not meet the ‘accessibility for everyone’ requirements. More, CEA is concerned about the barriers created for entrepreneurs and innovators by the burdensome documentation and reporting requirements that take effect during a product’s design phase,” said Shapiro. He also said the industry and the FCC must be afforded flexibility with respect to the content and format of any reports.

In closing, Shapiro said, “We have and will continue our efforts to ensure that all Americans are able to reap the benefits of new and emerging communications technologies. We look forward to working with all interested stakeholders on a legislative approach that reflects the rapid innovation of our market with the desire to ensure that these products and services are accessible to persons with disabilities.”

About CEA:

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is the preeminent trade association promoting growth in the $165 billion U.S. consumer electronics industry. More than 2,000 companies enjoy the benefits of CEA membership, including legislative advocacy, market research, technical training and education, industry promotion, standards development and the fostering of business and strategic relationships. CEA also sponsors and manages the International CES – The Global Stage for Innovation. All profits from CES are reinvested into CEA’s industry services. Find CEA online at www.CE.org.

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