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FCC Adopts New Rules to Improve Video Device Accessibility

WASHINGTON— The Federal Communications Commission has adopted rules that will enable people who are blind or visually impaired to have easier access to digital video programming on multiple platforms. The action, which was taken Oct. 29, will also enable consumers who are deaf or hard of hearing to activate closed captioning on their devices with more ease.

This action represents the final major step in the FCC’s implementation of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, enacted to bring people with disabilities access to the modern and innovative communications technologies. As a result of the FCC’s implementation of the CVAA, more than 50 million Americans will have greater access to advanced communications, the commission said.

Devices covered under the rules adopted include navigation devices used to access cable or satellite services, as well as other devices used to receive or play back digital video, ranging from televisions and computers to tablets and smartphones. All covered devices are required to provide on-screen text menus and guides that are audibly accessible, as well as a mechanism that is comparable to a button, key or icon for activating certain accessibility features, such as closed captioning. Other devices are also required to make their other built-in functions accessible.

The Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking implements Sections 204 and 205 of the CVAA. Its provisions include flexibility for small entities through extended compliance deadlines, outreach requirements to inform the public, and a procedure for complaints. The Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks comment on a number of areas.