In October of 2010, President Obama enacted the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. The CVAA updates federal communications law to increase the ability for people with disabilities to access modern communications. The CVAA reinforces the accessibility laws enacted in the 80s and 90s and makes sure that they are brought up to date with 21st century technologies, which can include new digital, broadband, and mobile innovations.
On a broad stroke, the CVAA can be split into Title I and Title II, both with their own set of requirements for communications and video programming and I. Title I focuses on mainly communications access, like phones, and the requirements there in. One of the main points in Title I is that it requires advanced communications services and products to be accessible by people with disabilities. These advanced communication services are defined as (1) interconnected voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) service; (2) non-interconnected VoIP service; (3) electronic messaging service; and (4) interoperable video conferencing service. This includes services like text messaging, e-mail, instant messaging, and video communications. Requiring access to web browsers on mobile devices for people who are blind or visually impaired (a “ramp” to the Internet on a mobile device). It also updates the definition of telecommunications relay services (TRS) so that it includes people who are deaf-blind so it allows communications between and among different types of relay users.
Video programming is the main focus of Title II and the requirements that should be met within that realm of technology. Among several requirements spanning across the spectrum, Title II restores the video description rules made known by the FCC in 2000 and authorizes a bit of expansion of those obligations over the next 10+ years. There is also a new requirement that states that if video-programming offers closed captions on TV, it must offer the same closed captions on the Internet, although this does not cover programs that are only shown on the Internet. There are requirements for programming distributors, providers, and owners to convey emergency information in a manner that is accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. It expands the requirement for video programming equipment to be capable of displaying closed captions, to devices with screens smaller than 13 inches, and requires these devices to be able to pass through video descriptions and emergency information that is accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired, if technically feasible and achievable. There are several other requirements that touch on several aspects of video programming; to read the full list of requirements visit the guide here.
Considering the usage of several various types of advanced technological devices, the need for accessibility for users with disabilities is much higher than some may think. By implementing these requirements for things such as closed captions for television services and access to everyday things like text messages and e-mail. By making these technologies available to everyone, we increase usability for all users.