With the Goal of Enhancing Access to Advanced Technologies for Persons with Disabilities, FCC Seeks Comment on Proposed Update of CVAA Rules

On April 7, 2021, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) released a Public Notice inviting comment from all stakeholders on whether any updates are needed to its rules implementing the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (“CVAA”). Congress passed the CVAA more than ten years ago to help “ensure that individuals with disabilities are able to fully utilize communications services and equipment and better access video programming.” The Public Notice notes that many of the Commission’s CVAA rules “have not been revisited recently, some since initial adoption,” and seeks comment on whether technology changes, industry practices, or consumer experiences warrant updates to these rules to ensure that the CVAA’s accessibility objectives are fulfilled as intended.

The deadline to file comments is May 24, 2021. Reply comments are due June 21, 2021. This is your opportunity to tell the FCC (1) which aspects of the Commission’s CVAA implementation are working well, (2) where there is room for improvement, and (3) which requirements, if any, are not serving their intended purpose or have been superseded by new technologies.

The CVAA covers two broad categories of modern technologies: advanced communications services and related equipment, and video programming, playback equipment, and software user interfaces. ACS — which comprise interconnected voice over Internet Protocol, non-interconnected voice over Internet Protocol, electronic messaging services, and interoperable video conferencing services — must be accessible to and usable by people with a wide range of disabilities. Video programming requirements include audio description, closed captioning, and accessible emergency alerts. Finally, video playback menus, guides, and user interfaces must be accessible to blind and low vision users. The FCC’s CVAA rules set forth specific technical standards for each of these requirements.

To learn more about the CVAA, we invite you to explore our complementary, recently-updated CVAA Compliance Guide. This regulatory compliance guide was specifically designed for equipment suppliers, service providers, and other covered businesses. This guide also provides a high-level overview of other U.S. accessibility laws that may impact your company’s operations.

If you have any questions about your company’s obligations under the CVAA or other accessibility laws, or would like assistance with filing comments in the pending proceeding, please contact Michal J. Nowicki, esq. at (703) 714-1311 or mjn@commlawgroup.com to schedule your free, no obligation initial consultation. Having been blind from birth, Mr. Nowicki has extensive personal and professional experience with the CVAA and a strong passion for accessibility. Along with the Chief of the FCC Disability Rights Office and the Vice President of Corporate Design at Poly, Inc. — the maker of various telecommunications devices — he recently hosted a webinar educating businesses on tapping into a market of 60 million Americans with disabilities through accessibility, and provided an in-depth overview of audio description under the CVAA and other laws at the 2021 Jacobus tenBroek Disability Law Symposium. He has also worked closely with Comcast, DirecTV, and other companies on making their offerings more accessible to everyone.

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