Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act Overview
The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 is split into two titles that specify the following:
Title I – Communication Access – Title I of the CVAA amends specific sections of the Communications Act to increase the scope of communications services and equipment that must be accessible to disabled users.
Title II – Video Programming – Title II focuses on video programming and broadly requires that the FCC conduct inquiries and enforce regulations for making video programming, services and equipment accessible to disabled users.
It is worth noting that manufacturers of telecommunications equipment already have significant requirements under Section 255 of the Communications Act to produce telecommunication systems that provide support for access by individuals with disabilities. The CVAA is intended to build on these requirements and expand them to cover new technologies commonly used for the delivery of communications in the modern era. Notably, in Title I of the CVAA, this coverage is extended to include ACS services and equipment.
SSB expects that for most organizations the CVAA requirements will principally impact consumer and mass market products in line with the goals of the legislation. The impact will be felt on the covered product types and functions that fall under the scope of the functions defined under the CVAA. For more information see CVAA – Covered Products and Services.
It is important to note that the requirements of the CVAA are generally applicable to both products and services provided by an organization. An organization’s obligations are not solely limited to the products listed in the covered products and services but also to any services provided that in whole or part fit the definition of covered services under the CVAA. As with the product requirements this broadly includes any services that provide (i) voice, text or video communication or (ii) playback or recording of video or television programming.
In addition to ensuring that products and services are themselves accessible, organizations must ensure that products properly pass through information related to accessibility. These requirements cover end user equipment, network equipment, and software and require that these components “pass through cross-manufacturer, nonproprietary, industry-standard codes, translation protocols, formats or other information necessary to provide advanced communications services in an accessible format.” In practice the principal requirement is that as communication services and video are transmitted across networks and systems that accessibility information is not lost as part of the process.
Finally, it is worth noting that the FCC interprets products and services to apply to the entire lifecycle of use for a product or service. The regulations governing the CVAA explicitly cover information, documentation, support and training resources that are provided with a product or service and generally require that these be provided in an accessible fashion. The regulations note that this includes, but is not limited to, “user guides, bills, installation guides for end user devices, and product support communications.” In addition to standard product and service documentation and communications this section also requires that people with disabilities have the ability to access “call centers and customer support regarding both the product generally and the accessibility features of the product.” This includes a requirement that call centers support the communication needs of people with disabilities – notably providing access for people that are deaf or hard of hearing via TTY / TDD.