Many thousands of Americans who have combined vision and hearing loss may soon be able to connect with family, friends, and community through the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program.
Mandated by the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established this new program to provide support for the local distribution of a wide array of accessible communications technology.
Technology can be a difference maker in getting or holding a job, managing a household, or simply living a safe, healthy life.
The distribution program is designed to ensure that every individual has the tools needed to interact with the world as an involved, contributing member of society. The program provides outreach, assessments, telecommunications technology, and training free of charge to those who meet federal eligibility guidelines.
Adaptive Equipment the FCC Makes Available
The distributed equipment must be designed to make telecommunications -- both landline and wireless -- and advanced digital communications (such as Internet-based voice communication, e-mail, instant messaging, and interoperable video conferencing services) accessible to deaf-blind individuals.
Such equipment may be hardware or software, either separate or in combination, mainstream, or specialized. Certified programs may also provide warranties, maintenance, and repairs, depending on the availability of funding.
Equipment covered under the program includes:
- Screen magnification software
- Refreshable braille displays
- Phone amplifiers and TTY devices
- Captioned telephones
- Video phones
- Videoconferencing software, e.g. FaceTime, iChat, or Skype
- Adaptable off-the shelf products
To educate the public about the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program, the FCC is funding a national outreach campaign called iCanConnect.
The program will be run jointly by three nonprofits: Perkins School for the Blind (Watertown, Mass), the Helen Keller National Center (New York, NY), and FableVision (Boston, Mass).
iCanConnect will seek to ensure that everyone knows about the free communications technology and training that is now available to low-income individuals with combined hearing and vision loss may be eligible.
Program Eligibility & Information
The National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program is open to persons with combined vision and hearing loss as defined by the Helen Keller National Center whose income does not exceed 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines
Nearly one million people in the United States have some combination of vision and hearing loss.
About the iCanConnect Campaign Partners
Perkins School for the Blind
Founded in 1829, Perkins School for the Blind (Watertown, Mass) was the first U.S. school for students with visual impairments. Through its education and outreach services, Perkins has helped over 200,000 children in 67 countries build more productive, meaningful lives. The school is the birthplace of the Next-Generation Perkins Brailler and Perkins SMART Brailler.
Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults
The Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults, authorized by an Act of Congress in 1967, is committed to enabling each person who is deaf-blind to live and work in his or her community of choice. Headquartered in Sands Point, New York, the Center provides support services for individuals, their families, and professionals who serve them through a national network of field offices.
FableVision Studios is an award-winning multimedia design and development studio based in Boston. Peter H. Reynolds founded the "social change agency" in 1996 to help all learners reach their full potential and to tell "stories that matter, stories that move."
President Barak Obama signed the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act into law in October 2010.