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Accessibility in the Digital Age

  • Published: 2010-07-20 (Revised/Updated 2010-08-03) : Author: American Foundation for the Blind
  • Synopsis: Laws must be improved to ensure modern communications technology devices used for Internet communications are accessible.

20 Years After the Passage of ADA: Championing Accessibility in the Digital Age. The following is a statement by Carl R. Augusto, President & CEO, American Foundation for the Blind.

July 26, 2010 marks the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the landmark civil rights legislation that expanded opportunities for those of us with disabilities, and opened a whole new world of possibility. We at the American Foundation for the Blind, the nearly 90-year-old organization to which Helen Keller dedicated her life, are proud to have been a key player in the passage of ADA.

ADA changed the world tremendously by giving people with disabilities greater access to buildings and public spaces through wheelchair ramps, curb cuts, and braille signs. It has also given Americans with disabilities increased protections against discrimination in the area of employment. And that's really just the beginning. Because people with disabilities are now able to more fully participate in society, attitudes about our capabilities have changed.

On the 20th anniversary of this world-changing law, it is time to set a similarly clear agenda on making technology accessible to people with disabilities. Right now, the United States Congress has an historic opportunity to build on the spirit of ADA and update it for the 21st century. In our 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.

H.R. 3101, the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, and its Senate counterpart, S. 3304, are now making their way through Congress. We are so very appreciative of the leadership of Congressman Markey, Congressman Boucher, Senator Pryor and Senator Kerry for sponsoring these bills. However, these bills must be improved to ensure that modern communications technologies such as devices used for Internet communications are accessible and widely available for all customers by requiring companies to add speech and other accessibility features to their products. Congress must also make clear that video description is required for emergency broadcasts and popular television programs.

If signed into law, this legislation will open many more doors for the 25 million Americans with vision loss. As we celebrate 20 years of improved opportunities for people with disabilities, we ask Congress to honor the promise of ADA by passing H.R. 3101.

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The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is a national nonprofit that expands possibilities for people with vision loss. AFB's priorities include broadening access to technology; elevating the quality of information and tools for the professionals who serve people with vision loss; and promoting independent and healthy living for people with vision loss by providing them and their families with relevant and timely resources. AFB is also proud to house the Helen Keller Archives and honor the more than forty years that Helen Keller worked tirelessly with AFB. For more information visit us online at

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