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Clinton – Gore Administration Accomplishments in Closing the Digital Divide for those With Disabilities

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National Economic Council

Clinton – Gore Administration Accomplishments in Creating

Digital Opportunity for People with Disabilities

September 21, 2000

President Clinton and Vice President Gore have worked to ensure that people with disabilities will be full participants in the Information Age. Creating digital opportunity for people with disabilities is particularly important, since it increases their ability to work, gain new skills using online learning, tap in to the rapidly growing universe of electronic information, and improve their quality of life by exchanging e-mail with people with shared interests. Below are just some of the steps that President Clinton and Vice President Gore have taken to help create digital opportunity for Americans with disabilities.

  • Ensuring that the Telecommunications Revolution Benefits All. President Clinton and Vice President Gore fought for the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which requires that telecommunications equipment and services be accessible to individuals with disabilities. In 1999, the Federal Communications Commission adopted rules implementing Section 255 of the Telecom Act, which will ensure that people with disabilities have access to telephones, cell phones, pagers, call waiting, and operator services.
  • Ensuring the Federal Government Provides Accessible Technology and Information.

In August 1998, the President signed into law the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which included in the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998. The revised "Section 508" requires that when Federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, they must ensure that it is accessible to people with disabilities. Because the federal government is a large purchaser of information technology, this law will accelerate the development of accessible technologies.

  • Signing the Assistive Technology Act. With the support of the Clinton-Gore Administration, Congress passed the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 (ATA). The ATA supports state efforts such as training, technical assistance, alternative loan programs, demonstration centers, information and referral hotlines, web sites, technology expos, and the development of informational materials.
  • Proposing a More Than Seventeen-Percent Increase in Assistive Technology Initiatives for FY 2001. The Administration's FY 2001 budget includes $100 million (a $13.5 million increase) for disability and technology research at the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) and $41 million (a $7 million increase) for Assistive Technology Act funds to States:
  • NIDRR would launch a comprehensive technology initiative that includes technical assistance and training to elementary and secondary schools adopt accessible technology for students with disabilities.
  • The Administration's request also includes $15 million to support grants that establish or maintain alternative loan financing programs. Many people with disabilities do not have the private financial resources to purchase the assistive technologies they need. If approved, this increase would significantly enhance opportunities for individuals with disabilities to take advantage of assistive technology.
  • Developing a Strategy for the Development and Transfer of Assistive Technology and Universal Design. In July 2000, President Clinton directed the Interagency Committee on Disability Research (ICDR) to work with the disability and research communities to identify priority areas for the advancement of assistive technologies and universal design capabilities, and to publish this information within 120 days. Following issuance of the report, each major research agency must develop a strategy for enhancing the transfer of technology that can contribute to the needs and requirements identified by the ICDR.
  • Creating the Access America for People with Disabilities Website. On the 10th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the President announced a new website, Access America for People with Disabilities -- www.disAbility.gov -- which will serve as a "one-stop" electronic link to an enormous range of useful information available throughout the Federal government for people with disabilities and their families.
  • Advancing the state-of-the-art of assistive technology: As part of the Administration's proposed increase for the National Science Foundation, the Administration has proposed increases in R&D that will benefit people with disabilities, such as a "seeing eye" computer that could help people who are blind, or technologies that could automatically turn speech into text for people who are deaf.

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