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HR 3101: 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act

Outline: Information and updates on US HR 3101 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act for persons with disability.

Main Digest

The H.R. 3101 bill, and its Senate counterpart, S. 3304, are now making their way through Congress. If signed into law, this legislation will open many more doors for the 25 million Americans with vision loss.

H.R. 3101 would ensure that individuals with disabilities have access to emerging Internet Protocol-based communication and video programming technologies in the 21st Century.

On October 8, 2010, President Obama signed the 21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act into law.

H.R. 3101 updates communications law to ensure that the 54 million Americans with disabilities can access the wide array of 21st century communications services and technologies that are essential for participation in today's economy and society - and that people with disabilities won't be left behind by tomorrow's technological advances. The law requires better access to broadband-capable products and services, video programming, and emergency information for people with disabilities.

Sec. 205

Requires the FCC to require that: (1) if achievable, the on-screen text menus and guides provided by navigation devices for the display or selection of multichannel video programming are audibly accessible in real-time upon request by individuals who are blind or visually impaired, except that the FCC may not specify the technical standards, protocols, procedures, and other technical requirements for meeting this requirement; and (2) for navigation devices with built-in closed captioning capability, access to that capability through a mechanism is reasonably comparable to a button, key, or icon designated for activating the closed captioning, or accessibility features.

On June 30, 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet considered the "Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act" (H.R. 3101). Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), chairman of the Subcommittee, offered an "Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute" (a new H.R. 3101) which replaced the original bill.

Official Summary of the HR 3101 Accessibility Act

From www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h3101/show

6/26/2009--Introduced.Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009 - Amends the Communications Act of 1934 to define:

Current Law

Requires that apparatus to record video programming retain and pass through closed captions and video descriptions. Ratifies and considers in full force and effect the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC's) video description regulations contained in a specified Report and Order. Defines, for certain portions of this Act, "video programming" as including programming distributed over the Internet or by other means.

Requires video programming owners, providers, and distributors to convey emergency information accessibly to blind or visually-impaired individuals.

Requires that apparatus to receive or play back video, including using the Internet, allow control by individuals with disabilities and that on-screen menus be accompanied by integrated or peripheral audio output to enable control by blind or visually impaired individuals.

Requires each provider or owner of video programming and each multichannel programming distributor to ensure that video programming information and selection provided by means of a navigational device, guide, or menu is accessible in real-time by individuals with disabilities who are unable to read the visual display.

The United States Congress has an historic opportunity to build on the spirit of ADA and update it for the 21st century. In this digital age where smart phones, DVD players, and the Internet have become a part the classroom, the workplace, and daily life, we must ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to the technologies of the 21st century.

This is the text of the bill as it was approved by the House, although some bills may be changed further either by the Senate or through a conference committee. This is the latest version of the bill currently available on GovTrack - www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpdbill=h111-3101

Quick Facts: HR 3101 Purpose

HR 3101 stands to finally bring U.S. accessibility laws related to communications and video programming into the 21st Century. By doing so it will remove the growing array of technological barriers that prevent individuals with disabilities from fully participating in our video-based information society.

(Sec. 201) Requires the FCC to establish the Video Programming and Emergency Access Advisory Committee to make recommendations regarding closed captioning, video description, accessible emergency information, user interfaces, and video programming guides.

Back in the days when we got all our information from TV, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing had the same level of access as the Hearing, thanks to federal laws (passed in the 1990s) that required;

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