New Technology-Access Law Benefits Blind, Hearing Impaired

President Obama on Friday signed into law the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act which requires smartphones, TV programs and other modern communications technologies to be accessible to people with vision or hearing loss.

“This law is life-changing for the millions of us with disabilities who are too often unable to take advantage of new technologies,” said Paul Schroeder, VP of Programs & Policy at the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB).  ”It opens the door to the digital age, and gives Americans with visual or hearing impairments equal access to smart phones, emergency broadcast information, the menus and controls on televisions and cable TV guides, and much more.”

The legislation gives individuals with vision or hearing loss improved access to television programming, smartphones, the Internet, menus on DVD players, program guides on cable TV and more. Specifically, it:

  • Mandates mobile phone companies to make web browsers, text messaging, and e-mail on smart phones fully accessible
  • Restores and expands requirements for video description of television programs, in addition to requiring cable companies to make their program guides and selection menus accessible to people with vision loss
  • Ensures people with vision loss have access to emergency broadcast information
  • Provides $10 million in funding each year for assistive technology for deaf-blind individuals
  • Ensures that Internet-enabled mobile phones are hearing aid compatible

The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act passed Congress with bipartisan support. Upon being signed, such industry titans as Verizon and the CTIA announced their support for the new law.

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