Historic Law Dramatically Expands Access to Communications Devices for Blind and Deaf

On October 8, 2010, President Obama signed the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act into law. The act, which Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski called the "most significant disability law in two decades," guarantees those with visual and hearing impairments easy access to communications technologies like the Internet and television.

Many of the new law's provisions upgrade initial regulations that have been in place since the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed 20 years ago. The act: requires all mobile devices with Internet access to come equipped with accessible Web browsing software; calls for all telephones used with Internet phone service to be hearing aid-compatible; and requires all new television remote controls to have a readily accessible button that will allow people with hearing impairments to turn on closed-captioning services.

The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act also increases funding for video description services over the next decade, with the goal of having 100 percent nationwide coverage by 2020. Video description services describe television and Internet programming for people with visual impairments, and were not implemented as widely as closed-captioning services were after the passage of the ADA.

To read a basic description of the new law, along with President Obama's remarks about the legislation, click here.

To read a provision-by-provision analysis of the law, click here.

Article Last Modified: 11/02/2010