US House of Representatives passes accessible communications bill

Thursday, 29 July 2010 11:17am

The US House of Representatives yesterday passed House Resolution 3101, the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009, a bill which will update US accessibility regulation for the digital age.

On the 20th anniversary of the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act 1990, the House passed the bill with an overwhelming majority, 348 for to 23 against.  The bill was presided over by Rep Jim Langevin, the first quadriplegic elected to the House, after the rostrum was made wheelchair accessible.  A similar bill has recently passed the Senate’s Commerce Committee, meaning that the bills are close to becoming law.

Among the provisions of the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009 are:

  • Require that equipment providing advanced communications via a built-in speaker provide an internal means for hearing aid use
  • Require interconnected and non-interconnected VoIP providers to contribute to the Telecommunications Relay Services Fund
  • Require, unless it would be an undue burden (significant difficulty or expense), that equipment and services for advanced communications be usable by individuals with disabilities
  • Establish an accessible products and services clearinghouse that is publicly available
  • Define as eligible for universal service support certified programs that distribute equipment to make telecommunications services, Internet services and advanced communications accessible by deaf-blind individuals
  • Require every provider of Internet access services and every manufacturer of Internet access equipment, unless it would be an undue burden, to make user interfaces accessible to individuals with disabilities
  • Require that apparatus to record video programming retain and pass through closed captions and AD
  • Define, for certain portions of this Act, "video programming" as including programming distributed over the Internet or by other means
  • Require video programming owners, providers and distributors to convey emergency information accessibly to blind or vision impaired individuals
  • Require that apparatus to receive or play back video, including using the Internet, allow control by individuals with disabilities and that on-screen menus be accompanied by integrated or peripheral audio output to enable control by blind or visually impaired individuals
  • Require each provider or owner of video programming and each multichannel programming distributor to ensure that video programming information and selection provided by means of a navigational device, guide or menu is accessible in real-time by individuals with disabilities who are unable to read the visual display.

More information about the bill can be found on the govtrack website.

Top of page