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­Last October, Congress passed into law the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA). Visit this
link for the full text of the CVAA [http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:h3101] The CVAA updates the Communications Act, which was discussed in a previous AT Blog post, so that its protections are extended to modern technologies, including Internet and digital technologies. The provisions are designed to increase access for persons with visual and/or auditory disabilities to programs broadcast on television and the Internet, improve user interfaces for smart phones and other mobile devices, and improve accessibility of DVD players and other video-related devices.

The CVAA is considered one of the most significant accessibility efforts since the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990. When President Obama signed the bill into law last year, he remarked, “Now, the bill I’m signing today into law will better ensure full participation in our democracy and our economy for Americans with disabilities.  The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act will make it easier for people who are deaf, blind or live with a visual impairment to do what many of us take for granted — from navigating a TV or DVD menu to sending an email on a smart phone.  It sets new standards so that Americans with disabilities can take advantage of the technology our economy depends on.  And that’s especially important in today’s economy, when every worker needs the necessary skills to compete for the jobs of the future.”

For the full text of President Obama’s remarks during the signing of the CVAA, visit this link.

The CVAA sets out a timeline for the exploration and improvement of these accessibility measures, which are to be overseen by the Federal Communications Commission. The timeline includes:

  •  By the end of 2010, the FCC was to convene a committee to explore the use of video programming to make emergency announcements; currently some of these emergency announcements may be inaccessible to persons with sensory disabilities
  • By the middle of 2011, this committee was to make recommendations on the delivery of closed captioning services for persons who are deaf or hard-of-hearing
  • By the middle of 2012, this committee will make recommendations on the delivery of video description services for persons
    with visual impairments
  • By the middle of 2011, the FCC was to set a schedule for requiring that videos that were broadcast on network television with closed captioning should, when rebroadcast over the Internet, also be closed captioned
  • By October 2011, the FCC was to define regulations to make Advanced Communications Services accessible to persons with disabilities
  • By October 2011, the FCC was to begin evaluating the possibility of providing video description for videos broadcast online
  •  By October 2013, Internet browsers built in to mobile devices should support accessibility features
  •  By October 2013, at the latest, the FCC is to define regulations that require accessible features be built in to on-screen controls for controlling video (such as play, pause, etc.) and on-screen menus for persons with visual impairments

As you can see from the timeline, some of the CVAA’s deadlines have already passed. For updates on the FCC’s progress, visit the FCC’s page for announcements about the 21st Century Communication and Video Accessibility Act [http://transition.fcc.gov/cgb/dro/cvaa.html].

Stay tuned to future blog posts to ­learn more specific information about the FCC’s new regulations, and how these regulations will improve telecommunications access for persons who are deaf or hard-of-hearing,  blind or low-vision, and deaf-blind.

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