Corporate and Social Responsibility

Accessibility Q&A

Q. What is accessibility?
A. Accessibility is the degree to which something is accessible or usable by people with disabilities. For example, buildings with wheelchair ramps meet accessibility requirements for people who are mobility impaired. Accessibility is a standard term when referring to products, services, and facilities in relation to people with disabilities. For IT, accessibility means enabling hardware, software, and services to be used by people with disabilities, either directly or in combination with assistive technology products.


Q. What is the Cisco Accessibility Initiative?
A. The Cisco Accessibility Initiative identifies global requirements for accessibility and usability and establishes strategies and processes to integrate accessibility throughout Cisco operations. The initiative's objective is to develop and implement the necessary processes within Cisco to help ensure that Cisco products, architectures, websites, and documentation are accessible to people with disabilities.


Q. What is assistive technology?
A. Assistive technology is specialized hardware or software that helps increase, maintain, or assist the functional capabilities of people with disabilities. It can be any device or technique that helps remove or reduce barriers to computing technology and information and enhances people's everyday activities. An example is a screen reader, which uses a text-to-speech synthesizer to translate what is displayed on a screen into audible text.


Q. How can I get a live demonstration of Cisco products working with assistive technologies?
A. Contact your Cisco account manager to schedule a live demonstration of Cisco products working with assistive technologies Demonstrations take place in the Accessibility Product Testing Lab and Evaluation Studio in San Jose, California. For more information, refer to the Cisco lab's webpage.


Q. What is Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act?
A. Section 508 is a part of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This section requires that electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by the federal government be accessible to people with disabilities. Section 508 was added to the Rehabilitation Act in 1986, and further amendments in 1998 significantly expanded and strengthened its technology access requirements. The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 includes the Rehabilitation Act amendments of 1998.


Q. To whom does Section 508 apply?
A. Section 508 applies to U.S. government departments and agencies. Section 508 requires that when government agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, they must ensure that it is accessible to people with disabilities. This requirement is in place unless doing so would pose an undue burden. Accessibility for for U.S. government employees and members of the public who have disabilities must be comparable to the access and use available to nondisabled people.


Q. What is a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT)?
A. The Information Technology Industry (ITI) Council worked with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to create a tool to evaluate accessibility. This tool helps U.S. government contracting and procurement officials fulfill the new market research requirements that are contained in the Section 508 implementing regulations. This tool, the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, or VPAT, contains a list of requirements that must be met for a product to conform to Section 508.


Q. How do I find a VPAT for a Cisco product?
A. Cisco product VPATs are listed on the Cisco VPAT webpage. If you are searching for a product VPAT that is not listed, contact your Cisco account manager or the Cisco Accessibility Team.


Q. Does Cisco IOS Software conform to Section 508?
A. Routers and switches based on Cisco IOS Software offer remote configuration and monitoring by use of a command-line interface (CLI). CLI-based applications are fully accessible to screen-reader technology and keyboard use without a mouse. These CLI-based applications conform to Section 508.


Q. What is Section 255 of the U.S. Telecommunications Act?
A. Section 255 of the U.S. Telecommunications Act applies to telecommunication manufacturers and service providers. This section requires that they make their products and services accessible if reasonable to do so.

Cisco employs common accessibility features in Cisco user devices, documents, and services. Cisco has tested and achieved compatibility with third-party assistive devices. Additionally, Cisco networks are compatible with common analog devices from the core of the network to the individual user.


Q. Is Cisco listed as a vendor under Section 255?
A. Yes. Cisco is a recognized telecommunications equipment manufacturer that is dedicated to meeting the requirements of Section 255. Contact details are on file with the Federal Communications Commission.


Q. Do TTY and TDD work over an IP telephony/voice over IP (VoIP) network?
A. Yes. Poorly designed IP networks with packet loss can degrade TTY and TDD performance. However, Cisco IP telephony networks provide reliable and comprehensive support for TTY and TDD services when the network is designed with quality of service (QoS), or prioritization, features.

The Cisco white paper "TTY and TDD over VoIP: Dispelling the Packet Loss Myth" PDF document (PDF - 42 KB) has more information.


Q. How do TTY and TDD devices connect to a VoIP network?
A. There are two types of connections for TTY and TDD devices: direct connection and acoustic coupling. The preferred method is a direct connection, where a TTY with an RJ-11 analog line option is plugged directly into a Cisco foreign exchange station (FXS) port. A TTY or TDD device can also connect by acoustic coupling, where the phone handset is placed onto a coupling device on the TTY or TDD.


Q. How do I get more information about the Cisco Accessibility Initiative?
A. Refer to the information throughout this Website or contact the Cisco Accessibility Team.


Q. What Hearing Aid Compatible (HAC) headsets are available for use with the Cisco IP Phone?
A. Plantronics tested their equipment with Cisco IP Phones for people who are hard of hearing. The test group included hard-of-hearing individuals who use either a T-coil or non T-coil hearing aid, and those who do not use a hearing aid.

A list of headsets and configurations recommended by Plantronics is available on the Plantronics website