Chapter Eleven continued...
In addition, these products must have a feature that enables users to alternate between using speech and TTY signals. The compatibility requirement also requires that there be a connection point on telecommunications devices so that they can effectively hook up to audio processing devices (such as amplifiers) that are used for telecommunications functions.
In addition to requiring access to telecommunications products and services, the FCC's rules require that people with disabilities be able to use products and services. The new rules define "usability" as access to product information (such as user manuals, bills, and technical support) that is functionally equivalent to information available to individuals without disabilities. For ex- ample, when a product is accompanied by an instructional video, the video should be provided with captions. Similarly, the appendix to the Access Board's Section 255 guidelines suggests that manufacturers should provide direct TTY access for their customer service lines so that deaf people can ask questions about products like everyone else. Companies that comply with Section 255 may not impose any additional charges for providing such access.
The FCC's Section 255 rules are broad in scope. The rules cover virtually every type of telecommunications equipment, including telephones, pagers, wireless devices, fax machines, answering machines, telecommunications software, and business systems. Similarly, the rules cover all types of telecommunications services, including call waiting, speed dialing, call forwarding, computer-provided directory assistance, call monitoring, caller identification, call tracing, and repeat dialing.
Enforcement of the Section 255 rules will primarily be through informal and formal consumer complaints filed at the FCC. To monitor the industry's progress in making equipment accessible, the Access Board will compile periodic "market monitoring reports" that will identify problem areas and solutions that have been used to achieve access to telecommunications products throughout the telecommunications market. The first of these reports is expected to be released in the spring of 2000.