21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act Introduced

21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act Introduced

Editor: The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, also known as the Markey bill, has been introduced to the House. It requires improved communications and video access for people with disabilities. Here’s the report from NVRC.

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June 2008

GOOD NEWS:

The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act is being introduced TODAY in the House of Representatives with bypartisan sponsorship by Ed Markey (D-MA) and Heather Wilson (R-NM). The Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology, of which NVRC is a member, is very pleased that the bill is finally moving forward.

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SUMMARY OF THE BILL:

Here’s a short summary of the bill, with some comparisons to laws that already exist. (If no reference to an existing law exists, that means that there is no current law on the subject):

21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2008 COMMUNICATIONS ACCESS – Requires access to phone-type equipment and services used over the Internet (Current law: Section 255 of the Communications Act only requires access to telecommunications product and services)

– Adds improved accountability and enforcement measures for accessibility, including a clearinghouse, outreach, and reporting obligations by providers and manufacturers.

– Requires phone-type products used with the Internet to be hearing aid compatible (HAC) (Current law: HAC is required on all wireline and many wireless phones)

– Allows use of Lifeline and Link-up universal service funds (USF) for broadband services (Current law: Discounts are only available for products, services on telephone network)

– Allocates up to $10 million/year from USF for equipment used by people who are deaf-blind

– Requires support for real-time text data transmissions to facilitate access to next generation 9-1-1 systems by people with hearing loss

– Clarifies scope of relay services to include calls between and among people with disabilities and requires Internet-enabled service providers to contribute to the interstate relay fund (Current law: interpreted by FCC to only cover calls between people with disabilities and people without disabilities; only PSTN-based and VoIP service providers must contribute)

VIDEO PROGRAMMING ACCESS

– Requires closed captioning decoder circuitry in all video programming devices, including PDAs, computers, iPods, cell phones, DVD players, TIVO devices and battery-operated TVs (Current law: Decoder circuitry is only required on TVs with screens at least 13 inches)

– Extends closed captioning obligations to television-type video programming distributed over the Internet: covers web-based video services that offer previously shown television programs and live video streaming that would otherwise be covered by the FCC’s captioning rules (Current law: Closed captions required on most televised analog and digital broadcast, cable and satellite TV shows)

– Requires easy access to user interfaces (controls) on video programming devices by people with disabilities, including audio output for people who are blind and visually impaired and one-button access on remote controls to closed captioning and video description functions

– Restores FCC’s video description rules and applies them to digital programming

– Requires access to televised emergency information via audio output for on-screen text by people who are blind or visually impaired

– Requires audio access to on-screen program selection menus displayed on video programming devices for people who are blind or visually impaired according to offices that you all have visited or contacted already.

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Distributed 2008 by Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons (NVRC), 3951 Pender Drive, Suite 130, Fairfax, VA 22030; www.nvrc.org. 703-352-9055 V, 703-352-9056 TTY, 703-352-9058 Fax. You do not need permission to share this information, but please be sure to credit NVRC