Communications, Video, and Telecommunications Act Introduced

By: VITAC
image showing legal textbooks, a gavel, and scales, in front of a man signing legal papers
Filters

Popular posts

Cell phone laying on a desk near a computer keyboard with the Twitch logo displayed on the phone screen
How to Add Captions to Twitch How to Add Captions to Twitch
image showing legal textbooks, a gavel, and scales, in front of a man signing legal papers
Communications, Video, and Telecommunications Act Introduced Communications, Video, and Telecommunications Act Introduced

Related posts

A cluster of social media icons pictured on a white background.In the center and larger than the other logos is the TikTok logo. The surrounding logos are as follows from left to right: the Instagram logo, the YouTube logo, the Twitch logo, the LinkedIn logo, the Facebook logo, the Tumblr logo, the Discord logo, the Pinterest logo, the Twitter logo.
How to Use TikTok Captions How to Use TikTok Captions
Microphone in front of a computer monitor for recording audio description tracks
VITAC Among Finalists at ACB’s Audio Description Awards Gala VITAC Among Finalists at ACB’s Audio Description Awards Gala
Share
Copied!

The Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act (CVTA) was introduced earlier this month by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Conn.). The act seeks to, per Sen. Markey, “update current laws on the books so that we can meet the technological moment and ensure opportunity, independence, and equal access for all.”

So what does that mean? Below, we’ll list key highlights of the CVTA and what the CVTA means for content creators, producers, and distributors. We’ll also provide some background on the bill the CVTA is meant to expand, the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA).

Highlights of the Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act (CVTA)

The CVTA seeks to enhance communications, video, and technology accessibility for individuals with disabilities by:

  • Requiring closed captioning for online video programming, mirroring current televised video programming requirements
  • Requiring audio description for both online and televised video programming
  • Directing the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to create and update quality standards for video programming accessibility
  • Requiring video conferencing services to have built-in accessibility features, such as automatic captioning functions, and the ability to connect sign language interpreters and assistive technologies that are designed to increase access for people with disabilities (e.g., refreshable braille displays)
  • Establishing standards for American Sign Language interpretation when provided during video programming
  • Ensuring deaf people who use sign language have equitable access to 9-1-1 emergency services through the use of direct video calling or telecommunications relay services
  • Requiring manufacturers of devices that display video programming, such as televisions and computers, to include features that allow easy activation and customization of closed captioning and audio description preferences
  • Expanding the contribution base for the Telecommunications Relay Services Interstate Fund to ensure its sustainability
  • Empowering the FCC to ensure accessibility regulations keep pace with emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality platforms


What the CVTA means for content creators, producers, and distributors

The CVTA could mean creators, producers, and distributors will need to increase their focus on accessible content. Here’s how:

  • Requiring closed captioning for online video programming.

    Current standards only require content that originates as TV programming to be captioned. The new rule will ensure that the growing amount of content online is accessible in the same way as other programming.
  • Requiring audio description for both online and televised video programming.

    Currently, only programming for TV is required to include audio description. The new rule means content creators, producers, and distributors who operate exclusively online will need to consider audio description as part of their accessibility strategy.
  • Directing the FCC to create and update quality standards for video programming accessibility.

    Currently, the FCC only offers best practices for making content accessible. The act potentially could give the FCC more authority in ensuring that rules are followed.  
  • Empowering the FCC to ensure accessibility regulations keep pace with emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality platforms.

    The rapid pace of evolving technology means that many of the CVAA’s rules have not kept up with changes over the past decade. This new rule could push platforms and creators alike to think more about ensuring accessibility at all stages of content production.


Background on the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA)

The CVAA, enacted by congress in 2010, was designed to help ensure that people with disabilities weren’t left behind as technology progressed in the digital age. It covered two broad categories of modern technologies — telecommunications access and video programming — and instituted accessibility rules for advanced communication services, including, among others:

  • Audio description
  • Closed captioning of Internet-protocol (IP) delivered video programming
  • Accessible emergency information
  • Accessible user interfaces (making functions such as captioning and audio description settings accessible to individuals with disabilities)
  • Voice over Internet Protocol
  • Electronic messaging and video conferencing
  • Accessible Internet browsers on mobile phones

Most of the CVAA’s rules have been in effect now for years, but many have not been revisited since their initial adoption. But since technology has continued to evolve at a rapid pace, advocates have been pushing for rules to evolve along with it. A petition filed in 2019 that asked the FCC to develop objective, technology- and methodology-neutral metrics for live captioning quality and issue a ruling on the use of ASR technologies still is up for FCC consideration. And earlier this year, the FCC sought comments on which aspects of the CVAA are working well.

The new Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act introduces a chance to provide much-needed updates to the 2010 CVAA in order to ensure ongoing accessibility as technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace.