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36 CFR Parts 1190 and 1191 ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines - Preamble (Discussion of Comments and Changes)

All public telephones are required to be equipped with volume control, as discussed above in section 217. This is consistent with other Board guidelines covering access to telecommunications products issued under section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which requires telecommunications products and services to be accessible. Section 704.3 requires volume controls that provide a gain up to at least 20 decibels and an intermediate gain of 12 decibels, and have an automatic reset.

Comment. Persons who are hard of hearing and disability organizations urged an increase in the sound level of phones equipped with volume control. Some commenters specifically recommended a minimum 25 decibels or greater. The Board sought comment from pay telephone manufacturers and providers on the time frame necessary to produce products that meet the proposed specifications for volume control (Question 27). Few comments from industry addressed this question, though other commenters suggested that meeting the proposed volume control specifications should not be difficult under current telephone technology.

Response. The proposed specification was consistent with accessibility guidelines the Board issued under section 255 of the Telecommunications Act and standards issued under section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments. In rulemaking on the Telecommunications Act Accessibility Guidelines, similar comments were received from persons who are hard of hearing who reported having trouble using public pay telephones because of inadequate receiver amplification levels and who supported adjustable amplification ranging from 18‒25 decibels of gain. However, several telephone manufacturers cited the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1996, which requires the Federal government to make use of technical specifications and practices established by private, voluntary standard-setting bodies, wherever possible. The ANSI A117.1 standard requires certain public pay telephones to provide 12 decibels of gain minimum and up to 20 decibels maximum and that an automatic reset be provided. In recognition of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act, this amplification level was specified in the Telecommunications Act Accessibility Guidelines. The Board has retained the 20 decibel specification in this final rule (704.3) for consistency with the ANSI A117.1 standard, the Telecommunications Act Accessibility Guidelines, and the Board’s section 508 standards.

Comment. Mute features on public pay telephones can increase audibility by temporarily disconnecting the telephone’s microphone while the user listens through the ear piece so that background noise is not amplified through the earpiece. In the proposed rule, the Board requested information on the feasibility and cost of equipping new and existing public pay telephones with a mute button and whether such a requirement should be included in the final rule (Question 28). Few comments addressed this issue. Those that did generally supported such a requirement, although information on feasibility and cost was not received.

Response. While the Board believes that mute buttons could benefit all telephone users in noisy environments, particularly those who are hard of hearing, the Board has opted not to establish such a requirement at this time due to the absence of product information and cost data.


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