US bill introduced to update Communications Act accessibility

Thursday, 6 May 2010 10:10am

US Senators Mark Pryor and John Kerry have introduced the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act (S. 3304). The measure is a major step forward in ensuring accessible technology for people with disabilities. Also co-sponsoring are Senators Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad.

The purpose of S. 3304 is to update existing requirements to make television and telephone services accessible in light of the convergence of these with the Internet, digital and broadband technologies. Basically, it is to ensure that captioning and audio description (known as video description in the USA) would remain with the content, whatever the delivery mechanism (i.e. television, streaming video, mobile content). 

An important difference between this initiative and the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (H.R. 3101) is the standard of compliance. S. 3304 establishes a new “reasonable effort and expense” standard, rather than the more comprehensive and established “undue burden” test in HR 3101. Introduced in the US House, S. 3304 would modernise disability accessibility requirements in the Communications Act, bringing existing requirements up to date as television and phone services connect via the Internet and use new digital and broadband technologies.

The press release on the introduction of the bill can be found on the COAT website.

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