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Access to Emergency Alerts for People with Disabilities

The Access to Emergency Alerts project unites emergency alert providers, local information resources, telecommunications industry and public broadcasting representatives, and consumers in a collaborative effort to research and disseminate replicable approaches to make emergency warnings accessible.

Alert systems, services and products are developing a range of text and audio alert capabilities that have the potential to serve people with disabilities, but most are inconsistent in terms of fully supporting accessible interfaces (captioning, vibration, spoken menus and text to speech options). People who are deaf or hard of hearing and who rely on captioned television news alerts are often left out when emergency broadcasts are not, in fact, captioned. And people who are blind or have low vision watch television to stay informed, but are at a loss when on-screen graphics or text crawls are used to convey information.

The use of web sites, cellphones and other personal devices promise greater freedom, independence and even safety, but often hit the market with access barriers which present new challenges as well.

The Access Alerts project is identifying the gaps that exist between alert systems which deliver information, the unrealized potential of these systems to serve the entire population, and recommended system protocols, technologies and services that can bridge this gap.

Final deliverables include:

• An information requirements model that serves as a "checklist" for accessible messaging across message content, equipment and delivery methods, based on existing authoritative works and Access Alerts working group input

• A national emergency management survey report on existing and planned practices for accessible emergency notification

Consumer focus group and usability testing research reports which outline consumer preferences for effective notification at home, at work, and in-transit

• A compilation of social science research about warning variables for people with sensory disabilities

• A proof-of-concept sample multi-modal accessible message

Final Recommendations to multiple stakeholders in accessible emergency notification

A public Resource Repository has been established for the project deliverables listed above, as well as presentations and articles by Project Staff, subject-related articles, services, research and Federal, state and community initiatives to address accessible notification to individuals with sensory disabilities.