FCC Pushes for More TV Services for Disabled

The FCC has issued a reminder to television manufacturers and video program distributors about their obligations to deliver emergency and closed-captioning services for the disabled.

The commission says it has received complaints from hearing-impaired consumers that some video program providers, including broadcasters and satellite and cable operators, are not providing emergency information for the hearing impaired in line with an FCC mandate that took effect two years ago. The emergency information, which must also be available to the blind or persons with low vision, takes the form of an oral description of emergency information or an aural tone to alert disabled viewers.

"We emphasize that emergency broadcasts lacking visual displays and video descriptions deny persons with hearing and vision disabilities access to vital information," the commission said. "To the extent that some video programming distributors may be unaware of the nature of their obligations under the Commission's emergency information rule, the Commission hereby reiterates that all distributors of video programming are obliged to provide emergency information in a format that is accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing, or blind or have low vision."

In addition, the commission noted its July 1, 2002 deadline for DTV manufacturers to provide closed-captioning capabilities in DTV sets of 13 inches or larger sold in the United States. Zenith is among the only DTV manufacturers to announce it is introducing sets with closed-captioning.