- How is IPAWS Improving Alerting to Americans with Access and Functional Needs?
- IPAWS and Office of Disability and Integration and Coordination (ODIC) Roundtables
- Emerging Assistive Technologies
Historically, alerting authorities depended exclusively on radio and television to send alerts, but these information sources can only target a state or regional sized area and do not currently employ many of the emerging assistive technologies for alerting those with disabilities, including the 29 million with hearing impairment. Importantly, the Executive Order that created IPAWS mandates that the US government must “include in the public alert and warning system the capability to alert and warn all Americans, including those with disabilities and those without an understanding of the English language.” IPAWS Program Management Office (PMO) is building a stronger and more inclusive alert and warning system.
How is IPAWS Improving Alerting to Americans with Access and Functional Needs?
By creating the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP), a standard for alert messages, IPAWS is providing an opportunity to improve emergency alert information delivery to Americans with access and functional needs. CAP alerts can transport rich multi-media attachments and links in alert messages. The availability of additional content will enable industry partners to develop and provide special content and or devices that can be used by access and functional needs communities to receive emergency alerts.
The IPAWS PMO is engaging in collaborative working relationships with numerous non-profit and advocacy organizations to help communicate access and functional needs requirements to alert and warning industry partners. In cooperation with private sector industry, CAP-enabled technologies and products for those with access and functional needs are routinely incorporated into IPAWS demonstrations and have been displayed at such events as: the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) Annual Conference, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show, the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) Annual Conference, the IPAWS Congressional Demonstration, and the National Disabilities Rights Network (NDRN) Annual Conference. The IPAWS PMO has also participated in other events, including: the Interagency Disability Educational Awareness Showcase, FEMA Getting Real Conference, and IAEM’s Special Needs Committee meeting. The IPAWS PMO is continually working toward integrating additional technologies and encouraging industry innovation to meet the access and functional needs of all Americans.
IPAWS and Office of Disability and Integration and Coordination (ODIC) Roundtables
IPAWS PMO partners with FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination to initiate semi-annual Roundtables for Federal Partners and Industry Experts on disability-related issues. The Roundtables include representatives from over a dozen leading organizations representing Americans with access and functional needs. These Roundtables are designed to provide periodic updates to our Industry and Federal partners, elicit information on emerging technologies and systems that can integrate CAP, and facilitate robust discussions between industry and advocacy organizations.
The most recent virtual roundtable was held on Friday, April 6, 2012.
The discussion included:
- Updates on the IPAWS program to Industry Experts and Federal Partners
- Emerging technology and ongoing commercial and Federal initiatives that might be leveraged in support of the access and functional needs community
- How to make public alerts and warnings more accessible to people with access and functional needs
- Brief IPAWS Program Overview and Program Accomplishments:
- Nationwide EAS Test
- CMAS operational capabilities roll-out
The IPAWS PMO also invited private sector partners to speak at the Roundtable about what their company is doing to assist in the development of alert and warning technologies for Americans with access and functional needs. These organizations included: AT&T; Sprint; SignTel; Alertus; DeafLink; Serene Innovations; and MobiLaps.
Emerging Assistive Technologies
Assistive Technology Products can enable people with disabilities, their caregivers and supportive family members, to accomplish daily living tasks, by assisting in communication, education, work or recreation activities, to help achieve greater independence and enhanced quality of life.
FEMA recognizes that people with access and functional needs are a critical part of the nation’s emergency management team. It is incumbent upon the IPAWS Program Management Office to reach out to the American people to ensure all segments of the American population know and understand our alert and warning systems – how they work and what they can expect during times of crisis.
The needs of the access and functional needs community are a critical consideration when developing technology to facilitate emergency and public safety communications. The IPAWS PMO has been able to identify emerging technologies and assistive technology products that support or provide direct alert and warning capabilities. While the list of devices can be extensive, the following are a representative sample of technologies currently undergoing IPAWS PMO operational testing and evaluations.
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) utilizes special output connectors on National Weather Radio (NWR) receivers to activate alerting devices such as bed shakers, pillow vibrators, sirens, and strobe lights. Those who use hearing aids or cochlear implants equipped with telecoils may also be able to use Aloop technology to listen to NWR broadcasts. Many NWR receivers are equipped with external output connectors that will accept an Aneckloop. The Aneckloop creates an electromagnetic field that couples the NWR receiver to the telecoil in the hearing aid or cochlear implant, allowing the user to hear the broadcast. FM, infrared, and loop based Assistive Listening Devices can also be used. There are also some hearing aids and cochlear implants with adapter cables that can connect directly to the output of an NWR receiver.
- NPR is moving the accessible media industry forward by introducing Captioned, Braille, and Blackboard Radios, as well as a new Radio Reading Service receiver, to electronics manufacturers. The new technologies come after years of extensive research by NPR Labs, America's only not-for-profit broadcast technology research and development center.
- Alertus Beacons and AlertFM Wall Receivers attract attention with sounder and flashing strobes, while a large text display informs building occupants of the emergency and instructs them how to respond. The units are typically wall-mounted in high visibility areas such as lobbies, front offices, prominent spaces, and by elevators and stairways and require local network or FM radio station integration to deliver alerts to beacons and receivers.
- The new Signtel Sign Language Public Address and Emergency Alert System allows members of the public who are deaf to be addressed by Sign Language and the hearing by text and voice. The Sign Language Public Address and Emergency Alert System is now in Beta and available nationwide. This patent pending product is of major importance to ensure that deaf individuals can be warned, informed, guided, and directed by public address and emergency alert systems.
- Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) is Deaf Link's flagship service. With VRI, organizations can offer on demand, live interpreting for people who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing who rely on American Sign Language to communicate. VRI provides the most time efficient and cost effective three-way communication between businesses or public agencies with their customers/clients/employees and a qualified interpreter. VRI works by connecting a hearing person, a Deaf person (both in the same location) and a qualified ASL interpreter (located at our secure communication center) through a video conferencing unit.
Technologies and products for those with access and functional needs are routinely incorporated into IPAWS demonstrations and have been displayed at such events as the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) Annual Conference, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show, the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) Annual Conference, the IPAWS Congressional Demonstration, and the National Disabilities Rights Network (NDRN) Annual Conference. The IPAWS PMO has also participated in such events as the Interagency Disability Educational Awareness Showcase, FEMA Getting Real Conference, and IAEM’s Special Needs Committee meeting. The IPAWS PMO is continually working toward integrating additional technologies and encouraging industry innovation to meet the access and functional needs of all Americans.
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