Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet today introduced the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. Rep Heather A. Wilson (R-NM) joined Rep Markey as an original co-sponsor of the bill.
The bill would amend the Communications Act to ensure that new Internet-enabled telephone and video services and equipment are accessible to and usable by people with disabilities and closes existing gaps in telecommunications laws. Provisions include hearing aid compatibility and Internet closed captioning to real-time text support for emergency services.
The bill includes the following specific measures:
* Requires access to phone-type equipment and services used over the Internet.
* Add improved accountability and enforcement measures for accessibility, including a clearinghouse and reporting obligations by providers and manufacturers.
* Requires telephone products used with the Internet to be hearing aid compatible.
* Allows use of Lifeline and Link-up universal service funds (USF) for broadband services.
* Allocates up to $10 million/year from USF for equipment used by people who are deaf-blind.
* Clarifies the scope of relay services to include calls between and among people with disabilities and require Internet-based service providers to contribute to the Interstate Relay Fund.
Video Programming Access
* Requires decoder circuitry in all video programming devices.
* Extends the closed captioning obligations to television-type video programming distributed over the Internet: covers programming that would otherwise be covered by the FCC’s captioning rules, not user-generated content.
* Requires easy access to closed captions via remote control, on-screen menus.
* Requires easy access by blind people to television controls and program selection menus.
* Restores video description rules and requires access to televised emergency programming for people who are blind or have low vision.
Rep Markey said, “New Internet-based technologies have
revolutionized the way Americans interact, learn and
conduct business. However the wizardry of the wires and
the sophistication of software programs do little for
those who cannot affordably access or effectively use
them. This bill is an opportunity to ensure that all
Americans are offered equal access to these exciting and
innovative new technologies.”
“This bill will help people with all kinds of
disabilities be able to get emergency information by
using advances in technology we all take for granted,”
Rep Wilson said. The bill would amend the Communications
Act to ensure that new Internet-enabled telephone and
video services and equipment are accessible to and
usable by people with disabilities and closes existing
gaps in telecommunications laws. From extending hearing
aid compatibility and Internet closed captioning to
real-time text support for emergency services, the bill
seeks to provide a smooth migration to the next-
generation of Internet-based and digital communication