Sunday, July 5, 2009

NCD Issues Funding Opportunity

The National Council on Disability (NCD) funding opportunity “Keeping up: Technology’s Rapid Changes and Effects on People with Disabilities” is going to evaluate how Americans with disabilities are faring in this new digital media age. NCD hopes that the report resulting from this funding opportunity will help to motivate and drive the development of new technologies for employed people with disabilities.

The idea is to examine the accessibility of new media, look at the technologies developed, study successful document development, understand consumer needs, and identify the barriers to transferring the technology for employment purposes. The research will try to provide technology developers with knowledge on how their complex products can be developed in a cost effective way for the market and at the same time increase the employment for people with disabilities.

The advent of digital media offers both blessings and challenges to Americans with disabilities from an accessibility of information standpoint. Digital television offers opportunities and challenges regarding captioning. Unlike analog closed captions, digital caption capability provides tremendous flexibility and a new level of user control over caption display. However, set design, remote control design, and transmission within cable systems are all critical factors that can determine whether captioning can be used at all.

Similar issues exist regarding video description in that the system for transmission must be implemented and viewers must learn to access it. Education of viewers and implementation by broadcasters are necessary for digital television to be available to people with disabilities. Digital radio also can offer challenges especially for people who are deaf or hard of hearing but offers the first opportunity to receive radio information in an accessible manner via captioning.

To meet the needs of the disabled, Microsoft Corporation has joined with industry and advocacy group leaders worldwide to launch new software that will make it easier for anyone to create documents and content that will be accessible for people who are blind or have vision disabilities.

However, some of the major questions to be answered are:

  • How can technologies be used to improve the employment outlook for people with disabilities?
  • How can universal design principles be incorporated?
  • What are the policy barriers in federal assistive technology policy that could prevent the availability to assistive technology devices and services?
  • What kind of technical assistance can be provided to employees to increase knowledge of new technologies?

All potential applicants are eligible. The anticipated type of award is a Cooperative Agreement with estimated funding of $150,000 for one award. The due date for the Funding Opportunity is August 7, 2009 with the project scheduled to start September 2009.

For more information on Funding Opportunity (09-04), contact Joan Durocher Senior Attorney/Advisor, NCD by email at