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HR 3101: 21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act

  • Synopsis: Last Revised/Updated: 2015-02-26 - Information and updates on US HR 3101 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act for persons with disability.

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.

UPDATE: 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


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

(1) "disability" to have the meaning given the term under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990;

(2) "advanced communications" as interconnected VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service, non-interconnected VoIP service, electronic messaging, and video conferencing; and

(3) other specified terms. Requires that equipment providing advanced communications via a built-in speaker provide an internal means for hearing aid use.

Redefines "telecommunications relay services." Requires interconnected and non-interconnected VoIP providers to contribute to the Telecommunications Relay Services Fund.

Requires, unless it would be an undue burden (significant difficulty or expense), that equipment and services for advanced communications be usable by individuals with disabilities.

Requires, if that requirement is an undue burden, that the equipment or service be compatible with existing commonly used peripheral devices or specialized customer equipment, unless that requirement would be an undue burden.

Establishes an accessible products and services clearinghouse that is publicly available.

Authorizes Lifeline and Link Up programs and other federal universal service support mechanisms to be used for those telecommunications services, Internet access services, and advanced communications that are needed by individuals with disabilities.

Defines as eligible for universal service support certified programs that distribute equipment to make telecommunications service, Internet services, and advanced communications accessible by deaf-blind individuals.

Requires every provider of Internet access service and every manufacturer of Internet access equipment, unless it would be an undue burden, to make user interfaces accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Requires that apparatus that receives or plays back video programming and has a picture screen of any size be capable of decoding closed captioning, transmitting and delivering video description, and conveying emergency information.

Current law:

(1) requires closed caption decoders only for apparatus having a picture screen that is at least 13 inches; and

(2) does not require video description or emergency information conveyance capability.

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 -

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 (a) video program distributors to provide closed captions with their programming, and (b) television manufacturers to produce TVs that were capable of displaying those captions.

Latest HR 3101 Act Publications

1 : Obama Signs Technology Access Bill 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act : American Foundation for the Blind.

2 : 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Legislation Passes : American Association of People With Disabilities.

3 : Greater Disability Internet Access - Obama Administration : US Disability News.

4 : AFB Applauds Bipartisan Leadership on H.R. 3101 : American Foundation for the Blind.

5 : H.R.3101 Bill Information : Disabled World.

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