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 Passage of the 21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act of 2010

September 30, 2010

The "21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act of 2010." Was just passed by We are awaiting signature from President Obama as I write this communication.

Also below is a COAT (Coalition of Organizations on Accessible Technology) summary of the bill. Note that accessibility features for the use of telecommunications and Internet are preserved, ie. Telephones used with the Internet must be hearing aid compatible, captioned TV programs must also be captioned when delivered over the Internet, establishes advisory committee re internet enabled emergency call centers, addresses interoperability issues, functionality for mobile telephone devices, and many other accessibility requirements.

This bill will have a direct impact on manufacturers of mobile devices and on the streaming of television programming to the web. It will also impact emergency communications, relay services, video programming and set up boxes/remotes. This bill, coupled with the accessible design requirements of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will significantly affect the accessibility of telecommunications on the global level. As of today, 147 countries have signed the Convention and 94 countries have ratified it and the number continues to grow.

Cynthia Waddell

COAT Member

ICDRI – International Center for Disability

Resources on the Internet

Executive Director and Law, Policy and
Technology Consultant

 

Title I – Communications Access

Section 101:  Definitions.

  • Provides definitions for “advanced communications” (including interconnected and non-interconnected voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), electronic messaging, and interoperable video conferencing services); “consumer-generated media”; and “disability.”

Section 102:  Hearing aid compatibility.

  • Requires telephones used with the Internet to be hearing aid compatible.

Section 103:  Relay services.

  • Permits use of relay services to enable communication with anyone, not just between people with and without disabilities.  So, for example, a TTY user can use relay services to call a person who communicates in American Sign Language using a videophone.
  • Requires Internet-based voice communication service providers to contribute to the Interstate Relay Service Fund.

Section 104:  Access to advanced communications services and equipment.

  • Requires accessible advanced communications equipment and services, if achievable; and, if not achievable, then to make equipment and services compatible with devices commonly used by individuals with disabilities to achieve access, if achievable.
  • Requires access to Internet services built-in to mobile telephone devices, like smart phones, if achievable.
  • Defines “achievable” as reasonable effort or expense, as determined by the FCC.
  • Improves enforcement; requires regular reports by the FCC to Congress; and requires an enforcement study by the Comptroller General.
  • Adds recordkeeping obligations for equipment manufacturers and service providers.
  • Requires a clearinghouse of information on accessible products and services, and public education and outreach.

Section 105:  Relay Services for Deaf-Blind Individuals

  • Allocates up to $10 million per year from the Interstate Relay Service Fund for equipment used by individuals who are deaf-blind.

Section 106:  Emergency Access Advisory Committee

  • Establishes an Emergency Access Advisory Committee to recommend and for the FCC to adopt rules to achieve reliable and interoperable communications with future Internet-enabled emergency call centers. 

Title II – Video Programming

Section 201:  Video Programming and Emergency Access Advisory Committee.

  • Establishes a Video Programming and Emergency Access Advisory Committee to make recommendations about closed captioning, video description, accessible emergency information, user interfaces, and video programming guides and menus.

Section 202:  Video description and closed captioning.

Video Description

  • After 1 year, restores FCC rules requiring 4 hours per week of video description on 9 television channels (top 4 broadcast networks and top 5 cable channels) in the top 25 most populated markets.
  • After 2 years, requires FCC to report to Congress on video description.
  • After 4 years, permits the FCC to increase video description to 7 hours per week on 9 television channels.
  • After 6 years, requires the FCC to apply the video description requirements to top 60
    markets (not just the top 25 most populated markets).
  •  After 9 years, requires the FCC to report to Congress on the need for additional
    markets to carry video description.
  •  After 10 years, permits the FCC to expand video description to 10 new markets annually
    to achieve 100 percent nationwide coverage.

Emergency Information

  • Requires video programming owners, providers, and distributors to make emergency information accessible to individuals who are blind or have low vision.

Closed Captioning

  • Requires captioned television programs to be captioned when delivered over the Internet.
  • Requires the FCC to grant or deny requests for exemption from the closed captioning rules (when compliance would be economically burdensome) within 12 months.

Section 203:  Closed captioning decoder and video description capability.

  • Requires devices designed to receive or play back video programming, using a picture screen of any size, to be capable of displaying closed captioning, delivering available video description, and making emergency information accessible to individuals who are blind or have low vision, except, devices with picture screens less than 13” must meet these requirements if achievable with reasonable effort or expense.
  • Requires devices designed to record video programming (such as DVRs) to enable the rendering or pass through of closed captions, video description, and emergency information, so viewers can turn the closed captions and video description on/off when played back on a screen of any size.

Section 204:  User interfaces on digital apparatus.

  • Requires devices designed to receive or play back video programming:  

o   to make controls of built-in functions accessible to and usable by individuals who are blind or have low vision, if achievable;

o   to make controls of built-in functions accessible to and usable by individuals who are blind or have low vision through audio output;

o   to provide access to built-in closed captioning and video description features through a mechanism that is reasonably comparable to a button, key, or icon designated for activating the closed captioning or accessibility features.

Section 205:  Access to video programming guides and menus provided on navigation devices.

  • Requires cable/satellite set-top box on-screen text menus and guides to be audibly accessible to individuals who are blind or have low vision, if achievable.
  • To provide access to built-in closed captioning and video description features through a mechanism that is reasonably comparable to a button, key, or icon designated for activating the closed captioning or accessibility features.

Section 206:  Definitions.

  • Provides definitions for Advisory Committee, Chairman, Commission, emergency information, Internet protocol, navigation device, video description, and video programming.
Rep. Ed Markey and Legislative Director Mark Bayer celebrate the bill’s final passage on September 28, 2010, in front of the Helen Keller statue, with the leaders from the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology: Karen Peltz Strauss, formerly with Communication Service for the Deaf; Jenifer Simpson, American Association of People with Disabilities; Rosaline Crawford, National Association of the Deaf. Their hands symbolize clapping in sign language.

Rep. Ed Markey and Legislative Director Mark Bayer celebrate the bill’s final passage on September 28, 2010, in front of the Helen Keller statue, with the leaders from the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology: Karen Peltz Strauss, formerly with Communication Service for the Deaf; Jenifer Simpson, American Association of People with Disabilities; Rosaline Crawford, National Association of the Deaf. Their hands symbolize clapping in sign language.

 

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