A Conference Run by Product Vendors

The Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) held its first annual conference in Orlando, Florida October 6–9, 1999. ATIA was formed in March 1998 as a result of product manufacturers' frustration with the way they were treated at other conferences, especially Closing the Gap. According to Larry Israel, CEO of Telesensory Corporation and President of ATIA, 76 companies that manufacture products for people with a variety of disabilities are ATIA members.

Attendance at the conference totaled 536 people, many of them educators. Not surprisingly, the focus of the conference was on assistive technology and training. Almost all the conference sessions were given by product manufacturers. These included: training sessions; product demonstrations in the exhibit hall; product labs where people could try the products; and sessions on specific topics, such as using Excel with JAWS for Windows. Several participants said that they came to this conference to be trained on specific products.

The second ATIA conference will be held in January 2001 in Orlando. For more information, contact ATIA, 526 Davis Street, Suite 217, Evanston, IL 60201; phone: 847-869-5689; E-mail: <atia@northshore.net>.

Able to Work Consortium

Microsoft Corporation announced the formation of Able to Work, a consortium of U.S. corporations that will focus on and find solutions for unemployment among Americans who are disabled. Able to Work is expected to include approximately 20 national corporations initially and will represent a variety of industries. Management and coordination of Able to Work will be handled by the National Business Disability Council.

An interactive Web site (<www.abletowork.org>) features job postings of companies that are seeking new employees and resumes of candidates. An internship program is planned for the future. For more information, contact: National Business and Disability Council, 201 I.U. Willets Road, Albertson, NY 11507; phone: 516-465-1515; fax: 516-465-3730.

Money Talks?

On October 1, 1999, the city of San Francisco unveiled what is claimed to be the first talking automated teller machine (ATM). City Treasurer Susan Leal convinced the San Francisco Credit Union and T-base Communications to join forces to create the accessible ATM, which was placed in City Hall. The cost per machine was estimated at $2,000 for the hardware and $5,000 for the software.

Last June, after years of behind-the-scenes negotiations, Wells Fargo and Citibank, along with Bank of America, all announced plans for pilot testing and eventual installation of accessible ATMs. Citibank installed its first trial talking ATMs at five California locations in early November.

Strategies for making the ATMs accessible will likely differ among the various banks, but each will rely on delivering the audio through headphone jacks to ensure privacy for the user.

The California Council of the Blind, along with other advocates, worked with attorneys to negotiate the settlements with the three banks. Meanwhile, cases against banks have been filed in Pennsylvania seeking accessible ATMs under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

New Telecommunications Rules

The Federal Communication Commission's long-awaited rules for Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act require manufacturers of telecommunications equipment and providers of telecommunications services to ensure that such equipment and services are accessible to and useable by persons with disabilities, if readily achievable.

The rules are available on the FCC's Web site at: <www.fcc.gov/dtf>. A more detailed explanation of the disability access provisions as they affect people who are visually impaired can be found in the preview edition of AccessWorld at <www.afb.org/accessworld.html>.

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