Bill would ensure disabled access to telecom services
Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) has re-introduced the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (HR 3101), aimed at ensuring that individuals with disabilities have access to emerging communications and video programming technologies.
According to Rep. Markey’s office, this legislation would:
- Require that mobile and other Internet-based telecommunications devices have accessible user interfaces, and offer people with disabilities use of a full range of text messaging and other popular services that are currently largely inaccessible
- Provide people who are deaf-blind with vital but costly technologies they need to communicate electronically
- Restore the Federal Communications Commission's modest video description rules and unambiguously establish the Commission's current and ongoing authority to expand such regulations
- Require emergency announcements and similar information to be accessible to people with disabilities through audible presentation of on-screen alerts
- Ensure that video programming offered via the Internet will be described, and call for all devices that receive and playback video programming to employ accessible user interfaces and allow ready access to description
- Strengthen consumers' ability to enforce their rights to communications and video accessibility through the establishment of a clearinghouse of information about service and equipment accessibility and usability, a meaningful FCC complaint process that holds industry accountable for their accessibility obligations, and judicial review of FCC action to ensure the Commission's own accountability
Verizon was the first major communications service provider to hail the legislation. Peter Davidson, Verizon’s senior vice president of federal government relations, said: “We applaud Chairman Markey for recognizing the essential role communications technology plays in the lives of those with disabilities. In the months leading up to the introduction of the bill, Chairman Markey brought diverse groups to the table and kept the focus on ensuring that those with disabilities have access to emerging communications technology. Verizon has long used its technology to improve the quality of life for those with disabilities, and we will continue to support Chairman Markey's efforts to pass meaningful legislation to further that same goal."