In 2010, President Obama signed the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) into law. The purpose is to update accessibility laws from the 1980s and 90s and make them current with today’s technology. CVAA promotes equitable use for people with disabilities and strives to ensure equal access to communication services and video programming.
The CVAA has been broken into two categories, Title I and Title II.
Title I of the CVAA focuses on the accessibility of communication. The CVAA requires that web browsers on mobile devices be accessible to people who have visual impairments, including people who are blind. Under CVAA, advanced communications services and products must be accessible to people with disabilities. This includes, for example, video communications, e-mail, text and instant messaging.
The CVAA has added and updated pre-existing definitions in the industry to comply with current technological capabilities. Another component of CVAA, the Hearing Aid Compatibility Mandate, requires that certain devices be hearing-aid compliant; this includes wireless headphones and telephones in the workplace and in the public, as well as emergency phones. The definition of Telecommunication Relay Service was also updated to include people who are deaf-blind and to acknowledge and allow a different type of relay users to communicate.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has been authorized under the CVAA to make sure that 9-1-1 services will be accessible to people with disabilities.
Title II of the CVAA focuses on the accessibility of video programming, which has a direct bearing on website accessibility for individuals with disabilities. As an initial component, Title II focuses on the FCC under the Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau. The CVAA reinstates rules that the FCC made in the early 2000s about video descriptions. The FCC had previously issued a rule requiring Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (MVPD) and broadcasters to carry television programming that includes video descriptions. Taking its lead from and building upon this prior ruling, the Law states that certain MVPDs and broadcasters have to provide the specified 50 hours of programming with video description during primetime for each calendar quarter.
The CVAA also requires that people with disabilities have access to emergency information and closed captioning through “video programming equipment” and devices that measure smaller than 13 inches. To follow suit, the law also requires that cables connecting televisions to source devices must be able to carry (or transmit) emergency and closed captioning information.