The 21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act

The Issue

Over the last 20 years, various federal laws to ensure access to telephone and television technologies have been enacted. However, these federal laws have not kept pace with new technologies.

For example, television programs distributed over the Internet are not required to have closed captions or video description even if they had captions and description when they were shown on television. Also, although televisions with screens larger than 13 inches must display closed captions, small televisions, cell phones, PDAs, and other mobile devices do not have this same requirement; nor are they required to pass through video description.

Although federal law requires phones over the regular public telephone network to be hearing aid compatible, it is not clear whether this obligation carries over to smart phones used for communication over the Internet. Nor are there any affordable phone devices that work for people who are deafblind.

The Solution:

“The 21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act” (HR3101) was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Edward Markey. The legislation is designed to protect people with disabilities from getting left behind when new technologies are introduced to the marketplace.

Please join us in asking U.S. Senator John Kerry to introduce a Senate version of this measure. Sen. Kerry is the chairman of the all-important U.S. Senate Committee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, where communication/technology bills are usually introduced.

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Message

Dear [Decision Maker],

I feel very strongly about "The 21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act," introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives as HR 3101 by Mr. Edward Markey (MA).

I am writing to ask that you introduce a similar measure in the U.S. Senate. This measure would amend the Communications Act to update the current disability accessibility mandates to reflect the new digital and Internet technologies.

Currently, people who are blind, hearing impaired, and deafblind cannot enjoy equal access to telecommunications, the Internet, and television programming.

For example, television programs distributed over the Internet are not required to have closed captions or video description even if they had captions and description when they were shown on television. Also, although televisions with screens larger than 13 inches must display closed captions, small televisions, cell phones, PDAs, and other mobile devices do not have this same requirement; nor are they required to pass through video description.

Although federal law requires phones over the regular public telephone network to be hearing aid compatible, it is not clear whether this obligation carries over to smart phones used for communication over the Internet. Nor are there any affordable phone devices that work for people who are deafblind.




Thank you for your support on this important issue.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]