In the wake of the midterm elections, Democratic leaders have lobbied in the House and Senate a bill designed to ensure that new technologies keep pace with the needs of people with disabilities. The effort is widespread Praised by groups like the Blinded Veterans Association and the Communications Service for the Deaf, and lawmakers are pushing for quick passage in the Lame Duck Session.
That Communications, Video and Technology Access Act, or CVTA, would change key parts of the current federal accessibility law by requiring, among other things, the improvement and expansion of closed captioning and audio description standards for online streaming platforms (in addition to television), the authors said. It would also update the requirements to make subtitles and audio descriptions more accessible.
The bill, co-authored by Senator Edward Markey, would further help improve access to video programming for deaf people who use sign language and, according to the authors, would authorize the Federal Communications Commission to “ensure that accessibility regulations keep pace with emerging technologies, including.” artificial intelligence and augmented or virtual reality platforms.”
“As technology has advanced rapidly over the past two decades, much of our economy and daily life has moved online. Unfortunately, accessibility standards have remained largely the same, leaving people with disabilities behind,” he said Rep. Anna Eshoo, senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and co-author of the bill.
Eshoo said that over the past year, more than two-thirds of blind or partially sighted people reported problems with technology necessary for work. And about 70% of deaf or hard of hearing students reported similar challenges in educational settings, she said.
Sen. Markey, a co-author of the current federal law — known as the 21st Century Communications and Video Access Law (CVAA) — These technologies had changed a lot since the passage of CVAA. “What hasn’t changed is our commitment to ensuring everyone – including people with disabilities – has equal access to the services and technology they need to thrive,” he said.
The newer ones CVTA, meanwhile, was announced with the support of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, who said in a statement:
“Accessibility means equal opportunities to create, participate and communicate – and promoting accessible technologies is an important part of our agency’s mission. To do this effectively, we must keep up with the new technologies. This legislation will help us do that by ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to the communications products and services needed for equal participation in today’s world, while laying a foundation for accessibility in future technologies.”
Eric Bridges, executive director of the American Council of the Blind, said the CVAA “has laid the foundation for accessible technology and inclusive media for people who are blind, visually impaired, and deafblind,” and this update would ensure that key communication technologies remain accessible and “reaffirm our nation’s commitment to accessible media and video content, regardless of how or where it is viewed by consumers.”
“This update to the groundbreaking 21st Century Communications and Video Access Act recognizes how rapidly technology is changing,” added Barbara Kelley, executive director of the Hearing Loss Association for America (HLAA). The CVTA, she said, would “ensure people have access to video conferencing platforms with built-in accessibility features, such as B. Automatic closed captioning features that allow people with hearing loss to fully participate in the conversation.”
“This is real progress,” Kelley said.
Numerous other groups focused on accessibility have supported the bill, including the National Federation of the Blind, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the American Foundation for the Blind, and the United Spinal Association, among others.