Congress passes Digital Disability Access Bill

Congress has passed the 21st century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, a new law designed to improve access to the Internet and other technologies for blind and deaf individuals.

The legislation is now headed to President Obama for his signature.

The legislation requires that programming shown on television also be closed captioned and video described when posted on the Internet. It will also require video programming devices, such MP3 players and DVRs, to be capable of closed captioning, video description and emergency alerts.

The new law also creates a one-stop shop for information on online products and services available to blind and deaf individuals, and closes existing gaps in accessibility by requiring technology like smart devices, including an iPhone or BlackBerry, to be hearing aid-compatible. It also restores the FCC’s video description rules thrown out by the courts in 2002.

Lead sponsors of the legislation were Rep. Ed Markey, D-MA, and Sen. Mark Pryor, D-AR.