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
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
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.
ICDRI – International Center for Disability
Resources on the Internet
Executive Director and Law, Policy and
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
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
- Requires access to Internet
services built-in to mobile telephone devices, like smart phones, if
- 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.
recordkeeping obligations for equipment manufacturers and service providers.
- Requires a clearinghouse of
information on accessible products and services, and public education and
Section 105: Relay Services for Deaf-Blind
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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
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.
- Requires video programming owners,
providers, and distributors to make emergency information accessible to
individuals who are blind or have low vision.
- 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:
to make controls of built-in functions
accessible to and usable by individuals who are blind or have low vision, if
to make controls of built-in functions
accessible to and usable by individuals who are blind or have low vision through
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.