US communications commissioner calls for increased accessibility for the blind

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Wednesday, 4 November 2015 16:22pm

In a blog post marking his second anniversary as chairman of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), Tom Wheeler has emphasised the work that still needs to be done to make communications technology accessible for people who are blind and vision impaired.

FCC charman Tom Wheeler. Image credit: ALA Washington Office

Wheeler notes in his post that new FCC rules which will come into effect in December 2016 require all video devices to have ‘talking menus’ and ‘talking guides’. Next month, the FCC will consider ways to expand on these rules. “In particular,” Wheeler writes, “our new rules would require covered manufacturers and MVPDs [multichannel video program distributors] to inform consumers about which accessible devices and features are available and how to use them. We also take additional steps to ensure that consumers who are deaf and hard of hearing can more easily activate closed captioning features.”

The UK communications regulator Ofcom has also been working to make video devices more accessible for the blind and vision impaired. In July it issued a consultation paper outlining changes it is proposing for EPGs (electronic program guides), including ensuring that they have a text-to-speech function, and highlight programs which have audio description.

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