The FCC has named Helen Keller National Center, Great Plains Regional Office in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, as the new provider for the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program (NDBEDP).
Communication is essential for staying healthy, holding a job, managing a household, and participating in the community. Modern technology has vastly expanded the way most people communicate through voice, data, and video services. But for people who have combined vision and hearing loss, special equipment may be necessary to make a phone call, send an email, or access the Internet. The goal of the NDBEDP is to ensure that every person with combined hearing and vision loss has access to modern telecommunication and Internet tools and the training necessary to use them, granting every individual the opportunity to interact with the world as an involved, contributing member of society.
In 2011, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) established the NDBEDP, called iCanConnect, as a pilot program. The Iowa pilot program is called iowaCanConnect and runs for two years, which began July 1, 2012. The FCC may extend the program for a third year. iowaCanConnect will provide valuable information that the FCC will use when it considers whether to develop and implement an effective and efficient permanent Deaf-Blind equipment distribution program.
Who is eligible to receive equipment?
Under this new program, only individuals who are Deaf-Blind and meet the NDBEDP low income eligibility rule are eligible to receive equipment. For this program, the term “Deaf-Blind” has the same meaning given in the Helen Keller National Center Act. In general, the individual must have a certain vision and hearing loss that, combined, cause extreme difficulty in attaining independence in daily life activities, achieving psychosocial adjustment, or obtaining a vocation (working). Applicants must provide verification of their disability and low income. The FCC defines “low income” to mean not more than 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
What must be done to verify the applicant’s need for equipment and income status?
Verification of disability: Individuals claiming eligibility under the NDBEDP must provide verification of disability from a professional with direct knowledge of the individual’s disability. Existing documentation that a person is Deaf-Blind, such as an individualized education program (IEP), or a statement from a public or private agency, such as a Social Security determination letter, may serve as verification of disability. The verification of disability must include the attesting professional’s name, title, and contact information, including address, phone number, and e-mail address.
Verification of income status: An individual claiming eligibility under the NDBEDP must provide verification that he or she has a total household income that does not exceed 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or that he or she is enrolled in a federal program with a lesser income eligibility requirement.
What kind of equipment can be distributed?
This program provides a wide range of hardware, software, and applications to suit the varying communication technology needs of people who have hearing and vision loss. Examples include products that are available on the general market and products that are adaptable through the use of specialized equipment, such as screen enlargements, software, screen readers or braille displays.
If you have questions, please feel free to contact Beth Jordan at the Helen Keller National Center. Ms. Jordan may be reached by email at Beth.Jordan@hknc.org, by phone at 913.677.4562, or by video phone at 913.227.4282.
Other helpful links:
National iCanConnect webpage
National iCanConnect brochures (PDF) Spanish (PDF)
FCC National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program webpage