AT&T Celebrates the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

29 Jul 2015 | AT&T

Tagged: Diversity,

Twenty-five years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gave civil rights protection to individuals with disabilities. At AT&T we are honoring this anniversary by celebrating our employees and innovations that have created opportunities for people with disabilities. Take a look at 10 of these technology innovations below and share your ADA story on social media using #ADA25.

10 Historic Innovations That Assisted People with Disabilities

AT&T celebrates 25 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act

1876: Alexander Graham Bell - Inventor of the telephone and co-founder of the company that would become AT&T, Alexander Graham Bell was an accessibility pioneer and teacher of deaf people. His father, grandfather and brother all studied elocution and speech, and both his mother and wife were deaf. All of this exerted a profound influence on Bell.
1923: Audiphone - AT&T and its manufacturing subsidiary, Western Electric, created one of the first amplified hearing aids. The Audiphone was hardly portable at the time, weighing in at 11 pounds and occupying 1000 cubic inches.
1929: Artificial Larynx - Designed to help those who lost their larynx to cancer or paralysis of the vocal cords, a team from Western Electric and AT&T developed the artificial larynx, which was held at an opening in the speaker's throat to produce sound. In 1960, a much-improved version was developed that had a battery and used a modified telephone receiver to produce sound.
1931: Telex (Switched Teletypewriter Service) - AT&T introduced the first teletypewriter exchange service (TWX), also known as Telex in 1931. It had the ability to send and receive large quantities of text. Although primarily used by newspapers exchanging stories, it was quickly adopted by people with hearing disabilities.
1947: Transistors - AT&T invented the transistor in 1947. Suddenly, the power of amplification was available smaller and lighter. The folks at Bell Labs offered the technology “royalty free” to hearing aid manufacturers. This was known as the beginning of Solid State electronics and paved the way for the invention of the transistorized hearing aid in 1954.
1953: Braille Switchboard - In 1953, AT&T introduced a specially modified switchboard to allow people who were blind or had low vision to work as operators and PBX attendants. It featured buzzers, pop up buttons, and braille labels.
1962: Telephone Amplifier - Beginning in 1962, AT&T offered amplified handsets for people with diminished hearing. These self-contained units featured volume control and were the same size, shape, and appearance as standard handsets. Later models were able to signal an incoming call by turning an appliance on and off.
1971: Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TTY/TDD) - Deaf physicist Robert Weitbrecht developed an electronic teletypewriter in 1964 that sent text directly over a telephone line. These devices, while groundbreaking for persons with hearing problems, were clunky and non-portable. Future devices were much smaller, easily fitting on a standard office desk.
1990: Americans with Disabilities Act Passed - Signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, this historic bill guarantees equal rights for any individual with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools and transportation. From its earliest days, AT&T has created technology and opportunities for use by people with disabilities.
Late 1990s: Two-Way Pagers and SMS - Powered by evolving wireless networks, two-way text-based pagers and the ability to send SMS messages between cellphones gave people with hearing or speech disabilities the ability to communicate directly with friends and family while on the go for the first time.
2000s: Smart Devices - Over the past decade, we’ve entered an era of smart devices. Integrated screen readers, Bluetooth-connected assistive technology and other accessibility features have created new ways for people with disabilities to engage with friends, family and the world around them.

To learn more about AT&T's commitment to innovating for the disability community, visit or follow @ConnectToGood.


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