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Reporting from RERC Emergency Wireless Communication State of Technology Conference
A common theme at this year’s RERC Emergency Wireless Communication State of Technology Conference was the emphasis on collaboration between the accessibility industry and the public/private sector so that accessibility is built into design and implementation rather than as an afterthought. Also, the fact that the national broadband initiative is poised to provide many more tools for people with disabilities, allowing the use of voice, text and video and other media for their communication. The next generation of 911 service, called NG-9-1-1, will allow people with disabilities to communicate and request help using such varied formats. Development and use of rapidly evolving standards such as CAP (Common Alert Protocol) was also discussed, highlighting its significance in implementation of standards-based, accessible messaging by the National Weather Service.
One of the innovative concepts that I came across was the “Subscription Service” offered by Deaf Link, Inc. based in Texas. This service provides accessible hazard alerts in signed video format for persons who are deaf or hearing impaired who use ASL; voice and text for the blind, and text for deaf/blind persons who use Braille-capable devices. This very interesting concept allows you to subscribe to such service and get accessible alerts and information during emergencies. The service is fully accessible on a variety of commercially available Blackberry smart phone models, and I was able to see a live demo. I can see the applicability of such technology for enhancing accessibility at airports (checkpoints, gates, or even event-based messages delivered to passengers with disabilities).
Another interesting demo was conducted by GA Tech. They sent an accessible alert message to a person’s mobile device by using a local SMS device or server. The application developed by the team was installed on some mobile phones and provided a text and audible alert upon receipt of message, thereby expanding the accessibility of the message.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport presented a vision for moving forward in the accessibility domain for wireless alerting. Daver Malik presented on “Applications of Accessible Wireless Alerting for Large Environments” with emphasis on applications for environments such as airports, transportation hubs, stadiums, etc. The need to carry out trials for technologies like Cell Broadcast that allow operators to reach mass populations within a very short period of time and are built on accessibility was stressed. The Airport’s role as a major stakeholder in improving accessibility of large environments was highlighted by showing the connection with other modes of transportation and tourism.
Daver Malik, R&D Coordinator, Information Services, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport