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National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program Connects Low-Income Individuals With Communications Services

On April 6, 2011, the FCC issued an order to set up the first ever National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP) to enable low-income individuals who are deaf-blind to access 21st century communications services. Established as a pilot program, the NDBEDP will help ensure that deaf-blind individuals have access to the Internet, and advanced communications, including interexchange services and advanced telecommunications and information services. The Order is the first of several we are expecting this year to implement the provisions of the 21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (“21st CVAA”).

Funded with $10 million allocated from the Interstate Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund each year, the FCC said that the best approach is to establish a two-year pilot program with the option of extending this for a third year. The FCC will assess the program then to see what is most efficient and effective for administering the NDBEDP on a permanent basis. Under the NDBEDP pilot program, the Commission will certify and provide funding to one entity in each state to distribute equipment to low-income individuals who are deaf-blind. Here are some of the NDBEDP details:

  • Of the $10 million, up to $500,000 is set aside for national outreach efforts.
  • Each state will initially receive a minimum initial funding allocation of $50,000, with the balance of the available funds allocated in proportion to each state’s population.
  • Certified programs must submit documentation to support claims for reimbursement for NDBEDP equipment and related services, up to each state’s funding allocation.
  • Certified programs must submit reports on their activities and expenses every six months, disclose potential conflicts of interest, and conduct annual independent audits.
  • To be certified, entities must apply for certification to receive funding support under the NDBEDP pilot program within 60 days of the effective date of the rules. The Commission will certify only one entity for each state.
  • Consumer eligibility is limited to individuals who are deaf-blind as defined in the Helen Keller National Center Act.
  • Because of the unusually high medical and disability-related costs incurred by people who are deaf-blind, the low-income eligibility threshold is set at 400% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
  • Equipment for distribution includes specialized and off-the-shelf equipment, separately or in combination, as long as it meets the needs of the deaf-blind individual and makes communications services covered under the CVAA accessible.
  • Costs of the equipment distributed, warranties, maintenance, repairs, and refurbishing will also be covered, if reasonable.
  • Also covered are related services, if reasonable, such as state and local outreach efforts, individual assessments of a deaf-blind person’s communications equipment needs, equipment installation, and individualized training of consumers on how to use the equipment.

For the entire article, see: or go to the FCC website at:


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