EIR Accessibility Policy, Chapter 8 - Telecommunication Products and Systems

In This Chapter

8.1 Overview

All Health and Human Services (HHS) agency telecommunications equipment and systems acquired on or after September 1, 2006, must meet the accessibility requirements of this chapter and the requirements of Section 255 of the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996.

To serve the needs of people with various disabilities in accessing telecommunications and call centers, HHS agencies are encouraged to provide the following:

  • alternative input controls, including voice commands;
  • access to live operators for users experiencing difficulty with automated systems;
  • use of relay services for people who are deaf or hard of hearing;
  • instant messaging services; and
  • use of emerging technologies to improve communications for people who are deaf or hard of hearing (for example, video phone technologies or similar technologies).

For compliance policy requirements, see Chapter 1: Overview, Section 1.4, Compliance.

For telecommunications systems and equipment purchasing requirements, see see Chapter 2, Purchasing and Contracts for Information and Communications Technology.

8.1.1 Telecommunications

1 TAC§213.1(14)—Telecommunications—The transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user's choosing, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received.

The term "telecommunications" applies to the transmission of actual information and the means of transmittal. For example, telecommunications includes both a voice mail message as a piece of actual information and a telephone system as a means of transmittal.

8.2 Teletypewriter (TTY)

1 TAC§213.1(16)—TTY—An abbreviation for teletypewriter. Machinery or equipment that employs interactive text based communications through the transmission of coded signals across the telephone network. TTYs may include, for example, devices known as TDDs (telecommunication display devices or telecommunication devices for deaf persons) or computers with special modems. TTYs are also called text telephones.

A TTY is a data terminal that sends and receives tones and converts the tones into text so that a person who is deaf or has a communication disability can use the telephone. Many people who are deaf or speech impaired use relay services or other assistive technologies rather than TTY as their preferred way to telecommunicate.

8.2.1 TTY Connection

1 TAC§213.11(1)—Telecommunications products or systems which provide a function allowing voice communication and which do not themselves provide a TTY functionality shall provide a standard non-acoustic connection point for TTYs. Microphones shall be capable of being turned on and off to allow the user to intermix speech with TTY use.

Telephone systems must have the following TTY accessibility features:

  • an available port for direct connection of TTY devices, and
  • speech and TTY intermixing capabilities.

Microphones must allow the user to turn them on and off when intermixing speech.

8.2.2 TTY Signal Protocol

1 TAC§213.11(2)—Telecommunications products which include voice communication functionality shall support all commonly used cross-manufacturer non-proprietary standard TTY signal protocols.

Telephone systems that compress or alter transmissions must ensure that signals can be decoded properly.

TTY-compatible products match the Section 508 TTY nonproprietary transmission rate protocol of 45.5 baud Baudot or 300 baud ASCII.

8.2.3 Voice Mail and Voice Response for TTY Users

1 TAC§213.11(3)—Voice mail, auto-attendant, and interactive voice response telecommunications systems shall be usable by TTY users with their TTYs.

Voice mail, auto-attendant, and interactive voice response telecommunication systems must provide users with the following:

  • clear instructional prompts,
  • enough response time for relay service assistance,
  • auditory instructions that when typed are understandable when read by TTY users, and
  • message systems that will not corrupt TTY data.

"Usable by TTY users with their TTYs" is a performance requirement. Telephone systems are not required to be able to convert voice to text.

8.3 Requirements for Timed Response, Caller ID, and Advanced Telecommunications Features

8.3.1 Timed Responses

1 TAC§213.11(4)—Voice mail, messaging, auto-attendant, and interactive voice response telecommunications systems that require a response from a user within a time interval, shall give an alert when the time interval is about to run out, and shall provide sufficient time for the user to indicate more time is required.

Telecommunication systems must alert users when their response time is limited.

A user must be permitted to indicate if more time is needed to respond before being disconnected. When the user requests more response time, the system must grant it.

8.3.2 Caller ID and Other Visual Displays

1 TAC§213.11(5)—Where provided, caller identification and similar telecommunications functions shall also be available for users of TTYs, and for users who cannot see displays.

The information available on the display of telecommunications equipment, including caller ID, must be available to users through synthetic speech or other means of access.

8.4 Volume Control and Compatibility with Hearing Aids and Hearing Technologies

8.4.1 Volume Control

1 TAC§213.11(6)—For transmitted voice signals, telecommunications products shall provide a gain adjustable up to a minimum of 20 dB. For incremental volume control, at least one intermediate step of 12 dB of gain shall be provided.

Stepped volume controls must provide users with an intermediate level of at least 12 dB (decibel) of gain. There is no requirement for an intermediate level for volume controls that allow the user to set volume anywhere from 0 dB to 20 dB of gain.

1 TAC§213.11(7)—If the telecommunications product allows a user to adjust the receive volume, a function shall be provided to automatically reset the volume to the default level after every use.

User-adjusted volume controls must automatically reset to the default setting after every use to help protect the hearing of the equipment's other users.

8.4.2 Audio Output

1 TAC§213.11(8)—Where a telecommunications product delivers output by an audio transducer which is normally held up to the ear, a means for effective magnetic wireless coupling to hearing technologies shall be provided.

Telephone receivers must be compatible with hearing aids to eliminate acoustic feedback for people using hearing aids.

1 TAC§213.11(9)—Interference to hearing technologies (including hearing aids, cochlear implants, and assistive listening devices) shall be reduced to the lowest possible level that allows a user of hearing technologies to use the telecommunications product.

Telephone system interference must be reduced to as low a level as possible so that users with hearing aids and listening devices can better use their assistive technology.

8.4.3 Transmission Information

1 TAC§213.11(10)—Products that transmit or conduct information or communication, shall pass through cross-manufacturer, non-proprietary, industry-standard codes, translation protocols, formats or other information necessary to provide the information or communication in a usable format. Technologies which use encoding, signal compression, format transformation, or similar techniques shall not remove information needed for access or shall restore it upon delivery.

Telecommunications products must not remove TTY text messaging unless the information can be fully restored to the user receiving the desired information.

For example, a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telecommunications system must be able to simultaneously originate, carry, and receive auditory and text-based communications.

8.5 Access to Operable Controls and Keys

These provisions apply to products with mechanically operated controls or keys such as telephone keypads and computer keyboards.

These provisions do not apply to touch screen technology.

1 TAC§213.11(11)(A)—Controls and keys shall be tactilely discernible without activating the controls or keys.

Individual keys must be identifiable and discernible from adjacent keys by touch. Keyboards must allow users to identify controls and keys by touch without automatically activating a function.

For example, a raised dot on the telephone keypad's number5 key can help the user achieve nonvisual orientation of the keypad.

1 TAC§213.11(11)(B)—Controls and keys shall be operable with one hand and shall not require tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist. The force required to activate controls and keys shall be 5 lbs. (22.2 N) maximum.

Telecommunications products must not require users to exert more than 5 lbs. (22.2 N) of force to activate keys and controls.

1 TAC§213.11(11)(C)—If key repeat is supported, the delay before repeat shall be adjustable to at least 2 seconds. Key repeat rate shall be adjustable to 2 seconds per character.

Telecommunications products with supported key repeat must allow the user to adjust time between keystrokes to at least 2 seconds to prevent the user from making unintended keystrokes.

1 TAC§213.11(11)(D)—The status of all locking or toggle controls or keys shall be visually discernible, and discernible either through touch or sound.

Special keys such as the Caps Lock and Scroll Lock keys should be tactilely discernible or should otherwise alert the user with an audible indication that the function has been engaged.