As National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) comes to a close, we had the pleasure to attend the FCC Chairman’s Awards for Advancement in Accessibility event last Friday in Washington.  Awards were presented for developments in mainstream or assistive technologies, standards and best practices.   

Due to the hard work by our AT&T Labs colleagues (we mean you, Jay Wilpon, Amanda Stent, Thomas Okken and Giuseppe Di Fabbrizio!) in the area of speech recognition and text-to-speech technologies, we were honored to receive the Chairman’s Lifted by the Cloud award for the AT&T Speech Mashup.  And we were further humbled and proud to receive an honorable mention for the Chairman’s Award for Advancement in Accessibility. 

It was also an honor to be among such an inspiring group of award recipients, which were selected by staff of the FCC’s Accessibility and Innovation Initiative (A&I Initiative). We have been thoroughly impressed and encouraged by the other accessible technologies and services that have been highlighted throughout the nomination process.     

The AT&T Speech Mashup puts AT&T WATSON(tm) speech technologies  and AT&T Natural Voices text-to-speech synthesis technologies in the cloud.  Speech technologies can greatly improve the accessibility of many applications for people with disabilities.  The cloud-based Speech Mashup enables anyone to easily create innovative accessible services for a wide variety of internet connected devices including smart phones, tablets, computers and television control boxes.  

Our commitment to accessibility and universal design has always been, and will continue to be, a top priority for AT&T.  Whether it is publishing our universal design principles online or using the human factors lab to ensure that products are actually usable by a wide range of consumers, accessibility is at the core of our culture.  When products are designed to work for a diverse group of customers from the start, our customers have access to more handsets and the handsets are oftentimes more affordable because they require fewer aftermarket products to become accessible. 

Earlier this month, we launched AT&T Mobile Accessibility Lite, which is a new (and free) suite of accessible apps for Android handsets.  We provided the Commission’s Technology Experience Center (TEC) with an Android handset with this great new mobile accessibility app to use throughout the month of November so FCC employees and visitors to the TEC can get a “hands-on” experience with it.  

And you can expect to see more innovative and exciting technologies and services like this down the road as we continue to develop the next generation of accessible devices. We are just beginning to realize what the future of mobile accessibility will look like. 

And we also know that we don’t have all of the answers to accessibility, and that is why just last week AT&T’s own Avalyn Jackson chaired one of the meetings with our AT&T Advisory Panel on Access and Aging (AAPAA). Composed of national leaders in assistive technology, aging and cross-disability issues, AAPAA meets with AT&T leadership three times a year and helps us not only to improve the products that we currently offer, but to figure out what the next advances in accessible technology will be.

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