Monday, June 23

Summary of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act

Greetings. And finally, here's a plain language summary of the act that seeks to make on-screen information accessible to all. Enjoy.

Summary of the
"21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act"

Telecommunications technologies have a proven ability to empower
individuals with the necessary tools of the information age. These
technological tools can animate the personal use of communications
for work or enjoyment, but also impact health care delivery,
educational opportunities, the prospects for employment, and job
creation. The goal of the legislation is to establish new
safeguards for disability access to ensure that people with
disabilities are not left behind as technology changes and the
United States migrates to the next generation of Internet-based and
digital communication technologies.

Title I -Communications Access

Definitions. Section 101. -Adds definitions to the Act as follows:

Disability -This has the same meaning as in the Americans with
Disabilities Act and Section 255 of the Communications Act.
Interconnected VoIP Service -This definition has the same meaning
as in the FCC's regulations.

IP-enabled communication service -This definition encompasses
interconnected VolP service and includes transmission services that
have the purpose of conducting voice, text, or video conversations,
interactive voice response systems, and other similar
communication-based services.

Hearing Aid Compatibility. See. 102. -Extends federal law that
currently requires
hearing aid compatibility on newly manufactured and imported telephones, to
comparable customer premises equipment used to provide IP-enabled
service. The purpose of this section is to make sure that people
with hearing loss have
access to telephone devices used with advanced technologies,
including cell phones or
any other handsets used for Internet-based voice communications.
(This section is not
intended to extend to headsets or headphones used with computers.)

Relay Services. Sec. 103. -This section clarifies that
telecommunications relay services (TRS) are intended to ensure that
people who have hearing or speech disabilities can use relay
services to engage in functionally equivalent telephone
communication with all other people, not just people without a
hearing or speech disability. It revises Section 225 of the Act,
which has been interpreted at times (by the FCC) to authorize only
relay services between people with disabilities and people without
disabilities. This section also expands the relay service
obligation to contribute to the Telecommunications Relay Services
Fund to all providers of IP-enabled communication services that
provide voice communication.

Access to Internet-Based Services and Equipment. Sec. 104. -This
section builds upon authority contained in Section 255 of the
Communications Act, which generally requires telecommunications
service providers, as well as interconnected VoIP providers and
manufacturers, to make their services and equipment accessible to
and usable by
people with disabilities. This section creates new safeguards for
Internet-based communications technologies (equipment, services and
networks) to be accessible by people with disabilities, unless
doing so would result in an undue burden. Where an undue burden
would result, manufacturers and providers must make their equipment
and services compatible with specialized equipment and services
typically used by people with disabilities. The term "undue burden"
has the same meaning given it in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This section also contains measures to improve the accountability
and enforcement of disability safeguards under Section 255 and the
new Section 255A, including directives for new FCC complaint
procedures, reporting obligations for industry and the FCC, the
creation of a clearinghouse of information on accessible products
and services by the U.S. Access Board and National
Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and
directives for enhanced outreach and education by the FCC and NTIA.

Sec. 104 also clarifies that the transmission and receipt of text
messages sent by radio to and from mobile wireless devices are
telecommunications services, and therefore must comply with the
accessibility obligations under Section 255 and the new
accountability measures under Section 255B.

Universal Service. Sec. 105. -This section makes consumers with
disabilities - as a distinct group - eligible to receive universal
service support through two specific measures. First, it grants the
FCC authority to designate broadband services needed for "phone
communication" by people with disabilities as services eligible to
receive support under the existing Lifeline and Linkup universal
service programs. For example, this would include deaf individuals
who are otherwise eligible for Lifeline and Linkup support, but who
rely on Internet-based video relay services or point-to-point video
for their telephone communications. Second, it grants authority to
the FCC to designate programs that distribute specialized equipment
used to make telecommunications and Internet-enabled communication
services accessible to individuals who are deaf-blind, as eligible
for universal service support. Such support, however, is capped at
$10 million per year.

Emergency Access and Real-Time Text Support. Section 106. This
section contains a specific requirement for real-time text support,
to ensure that people with disabilities, especially individuals who
are deaf or hard of hearing or who have a speech disability, are
able to communicate with others via text in an IP environment with
the same reliability and interoperability as they receive via the
public telephone network when using TTYs. A primary goal of this
section is to ensure that individuals who rely on text to
communicate have equal access to emergency services during and
after the migration to a national IP-enabled emergency network.

Title II -Video Programming

Commission Inquiry on Closed-Captioning Decoder and Video Description
Capability, User Interfaces, and Video Programming Guides and
Menus. Sec. 201. - This section directs the FCC to conduct three
inquiries within 6 months of passage of the Act, and to report to
Congress on the results of such inquiries within 1 year: (I) to
identify formats and software needed to transmit, receive and
display closed captioning and video programming provided via
Internet-enabled services and digital wireless services, including
ways to transmit televised emergency information that is accessible
to people who are blind or visually impaired; and (2) to identify
ways to make user interfaces (controls -e.g., turning these devices
on and off, controlling volume and selecting programming) on
television and other video programming devices -including the
receipt, display, navigation and selection of programming
-accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired, and (3)
to identify ways to make video programming guides and menus
(typically on-screen) accessible in real-time to people who cannot
read those guides or menus.

Closed-Captioning Decoder and Video Description Capability. Sec. 202 -This
section expands the scope of devices that must display closed
captions under the
Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990 from the present
requirement of television sets
with screens that are 13 inches or larger, to all video devices
that receive or display video
programming transmitted simultaneously with sound, including those
that can receive or
display programming carried over the Internet. The section also
requires these devices to
be able to transmit and deliver video descriptions. Video
description is the provision of
verbal descriptions of the on-screen visual elements of a show
provided during natural pauses in dialogue.

Video Description and Closed Captioning. Sec. 203. -This section
reinstates the FCC's modest regulations on video description. Those
rules, originally promulgated in 2001, were struck down by a U.S.
Court of Appeals for lack of FCC authority. This section also
authorizes the FCC to promulgate additional rules to (1) ensure
that video description services can be transmitted and provided
over digital TV technologies, (2) require non-visual access to
on-screen emergency warnings and similar televised information and
(3) increase the amount of video description required. Finally,
this section adds a definition for video programming to include
programming distributed over the Internet to make clear that the
existing closed captioning obligations (and future video
description obligations) contained in Section 713 apply to video
programming that is distributed or re-distributed over the Internet.
It tasks the FCC with creating captioning rules for three types of
programming: 1) pre-produced programming that was previously
captioned for television viewing, 2) live video programming, and 3)
programming (first published or exhibited after the effective date of
the FCC's regulations) provided by or generally considered to be
comparable to programming provided by multichannel programming
distributors. This section is intended to ensure the continued
accessibility of video programming to Americans with disabilities,
as this programming migrates to the Internet

User Interfaces. Sec. 204.-This section requires devices used to
receive or display video programming, including devices used to
receive and display Internet-based video programming, to be
accessible by people with disabilities so that such individuals are
able to access all functions of such devices related to video
programming (such as turning these devices on and off, controlling
volume and select programming). The section contains requirements
for (1) audio output where on-screen text menus are used to control
video programming functions, and (2) a conspicuous means of
accessing closed captioning and video description, including a
button on remote controls and first level access to these
accessibility features when made available through on-screen menus.

Access Video Programming Guides and Menus. Sec. 205 -This section
requires multichannel video programming distributors to make their
navigational programming guides accessible to people who cannot
read the visual display, so that these individuals can make program

No comments:

Post a Comment