The House recently passed H.R. 3101, the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. Sponsored by Rep. Markey of Massachusetts, the bill seeks to apply standards of accessibility first encouraged by the Americans with Disabilities Act to online services. Specifically the bill would:
- Extend general accessibility provisions for equipment that provides voice communication to include Voice over Internet Protocol, electronic messaging and video conferencing services.
- Video programming shown with captions on televisions must also provide captions if transmitted over the internet.
- Emergency information shown on television or similar display devices must also provide some audio to reach those with visual impairments.
- User interfaces for equipment that displays video information must be accessible, and any associated remote control must have a captioning button
- On-screen guides and text menus provided by navigation devices must also be accessible.
A very similar bill sponsored by Senator Pryor is waiting for a floor vote in the Senate. While both bills read as though they were written for the technology of a few years ago, they do move accessibility standards into the 21st century.