Congress Passes Equal Access to 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act
On Sept. 28th, 2010, Congress passed the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act, which expands the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The bill now awaits the President’s signature. The bill has a number of significant provisions, including the following:
– Both interconnected and non-interconnected VoIP service providers would be required to participate in and contribute to the Telecommunications Relay Services Fund within one year of the date the bill is enacted.
– Within one year of the date the bill is enacted, the FCC would be required to promulgate rules and guidelines regarding the following provisions for manufacturers of equipment used for and providers of “advanced communications services” (defined as Internet-based protocol devices and services that transmit voice, video conferencing, and text communications, and any application or service accessed over the Internet that provides for voice, video conferencing, or text communications):
- Manufacturers of equipment used for “advanced communications services” would be required to ensure that the equipment and software is accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, if achievable.
- Likewise, providers of advanced communications services would also be required to ensure those services are accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, if achievable.
- In cases where such accessibility/utility is not achievable, the manufacturer or provider would be required to ensure that its equipment or service is compatible with existing peripheral devices or specialized equipment commonly used by individuals with disabilities to achieve access.
– If a phone manufacturer or mobile phone service provider includes an Internet browser in the phone, it would be required to ensure that the functions of the browser (including ability to launch) are accessible to and usable by blind or visually impaired individuals.
- This provision would not require the manufacturer or service provider to (a) make accessible/usable any internet browser other than the one included in the technology, or (b) make internet content, apps, or services accessible or usable.
- This provision would not take effect until three years after the bill is enacted.
– Other provisions in the bill contain requirements concerning closed captioning decoder and video description capability, user interfaces, and video programming guides and menus.
A full copy of the bill can be found here.