Cisco Awarded FCC Chairman’s Awards for Accessibility and Advancement

We are proud to announce that Cisco was awarded the Chairman’s Awards for Advancement and Accessibility (Chairman’s AAA) for creating accessibility features for the blind on its 8800 Series Phones. The Chairman’s AAA is an FCC program recognizing products, services, standards and other innovative development that improve the experience of people with disabilities in telecommunications and technology.

Advancement in Accessibility

For most, looking at your phone to see an incoming call and deciding whether or not to answer it isn’t a concern. However, for the vision impaired, using a phone without the ability to see the display is a challenge and a potential barrier to employment.

In an effort to address the needs of the vision impaired, the Cisco engineering team was engaged to find and develop a solution. The team participated in early discussions with the American Council for the Blind (ACB) around the needs and requirements and understanding why they were important. They also visited the American Foundation for the Blind in Dallas to get a first-hand look at how end users with vision disabilities functioned in an office environment and in a simulated home environment.

Text to Speech Software Release

With our 12.1 software release in March 2018, Cisco introduced “text to speech” (TTS) functionality on the 8800 Series phones. TTS can be enabled and disabled by tapping a button on the phone three times, and once TTS is enabled, the user will have the following functionality enabled:

Announcing Key Functionality Pressing the hard keys on the bottom of the phone will announce the key’s functionality. As an example, when the user presses the “Directory” button, the user will hear “Directory”.
“Soft Keys” Cisco phones have soft keys that are directly below the display on the phone, and the functionality of Soft Keys changes depending on what state the phone is in. For example, when the phone is idle with no call, the first soft key may be used for “New Call”. When the phone is in a call, that same key may be used for “Transfer”. For a vision impaired user, it’s difficult to remember what context the phone is in and what the functionality of the keys is within that context. When text to speech is enabled, if the user presses a Soft Key once, it will announce the functionality assigned to that Soft Key. If the user presses a Soft Key twice, it will execute the functionality assigned to that key.
Announcing “Phone Settings” When TTS is enabled, “Phone Settings” will be announced. As the user scrolls through them and try to modify them. For example, as a user navigates to the Bluetooth field in the Settings Menu, the phone will readout if Bluetooth is “On” or “Off.” As the user toggles this setting, the updated setting will be announced.
Announcing Incoming Caller ID. The phone will announce the caller ID that is being presented on the display.
Audio Readout When the user walks through their Call History, they will be provided an audio readout. The audio readout will include missed calls, placed calls, and received calls, and will read out the caller ID of the call.

Usability for the Vision-Impaired

This software release is available for both new phones and phones that have already been deployed in the workplace. Cisco ships millions of 8800 Series phones per year in addition to the millions already in the market that can support this feature.

We know there are literally hundreds of millions of phones in offices around the world that are several years old and just don’t have this type of technology. Whether you’re just now learning about the capabilities of your 8800 Series phone or it’s time to refresh your phones, consider the needs of those who use them.This innovation is the first technology to allow vision impaired users to access and use their office phone in a productive and accessible manner. We’re honored to have been selected to receive this prestigious award, and we’re excited to continue to innovate for the future.

Watch a demo of the TTS feature here