New Accessibility Law Signed by President Obama

The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (PDF) was signed into law on October 8, 2010, after several years of drafting, revision, and tough final negotiation. The Act will apply accessibility requirements to a wide range of new digital media and communication technologies.  Here are just some of its provisions:

  • Requires accessible VoIP equipment and services
  • Requires built-in mobile phone browsers to be accessible
  • Establishes a clearinghouse of information on accessible products and services
  • Allocates $10 million per year for equipment used by deaf-blind customers
  • Establishes FCC advisory committees on Emergency Access and Video Programming Access
  • Requires additional captioning and video description, including some online content
  • Requires accessibility features on video devices, including access to content and menu navigation

The FCC has an ambitious agenda to deliver regulations for all these provisions over the next few years.  The work of the advisory committees will determine some of the details in that direction.  But looking at the big picture, this Act will transform how manufacturers, service providers, and consumers address accessibility.  The Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT) drafted the original bill, lobbied for it, negotiated over it, and deserves most of the credit for a visionary yet pragmatic piece of legislation.

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