In 2014, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate funded the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), Center for Advanced Communications Policy to examine and report on how to optimize Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) message receipt by people with disabilities. Reaching people with disabilities, including the deaf and hard of hearing, with WEA messages is critical, in part because people with disabilities utilize and depend on wireless devices, including mobile phones at more than 96 percent. Their devices become even more important during emergencies.
The aim of this project was to assist in understanding and identifying ways to ensure that people with disabilities had timely and effective access to WEA messages. Many tasks were developed to accomplish this scope of development to (1) to determine the ideal vibration strength for a WEA alert and (2) assess the utility of adding a display light to enhance alerting people who are deaf or hard of hearing of an incoming WEA message. These efforts resulted in several key products including a Market Analysis Report, Focus Group Summation, a device for validation of off-the-shelf models to enable accurate quantifying of the vibration strength of WEA-capable mobile phones, and an architectural design for the prototype "handsets" of which the findings and conclusions were utilized in the design and production of the prototypes.