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FCC Ruling on Accessible Devices for TV

New FCC Rules Will Make TV/TV-Like Devices Accessible!

Dear Advocates:

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has just announced that it will be publishing final regulations requiring that virtually all TV and TV-like devices must be accessible through audible controls, guides and menus! This action by the FCC is the result of an unprecedented outpouring by the vision loss community demanding greater accessibility. Advocates will recall that there had been attempts by some industry groups to thwart the intent of the historic Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) to revolutionize the television viewing experience for people with disabilities. AFB, along with the American Council of the Blind (ACB) successfully negotiated with leading industry advocates to craft the consensus that the FCC ultimately used to adopt their new rules. Under this consensus, virtually all TV and TV-like devices, inclusive of tablets and smart phones, receiving digital video programming must be accessible through audible controls. The rules do apply a slightly different degree of accessibility requirements on devices that depend on additional equipment, such as a so-called cable card. However, even in such instances, the devices must be accessible but will only be required to be provided upon request. All other devices must be accessible as a matter of course unless the manufacturer can demonstrate that accessibility was not achievable.

This rulemaking is the last of the many rulemaking proceedings implementing the CVAA which, along with requirements for described TV programming and accessible advanced communications services such as text messaging and email, will forever change the way people who are blind or visually impaired can fully use and enjoy the most ubiquitous technologies on the market today.

Once the final official version of the new rules has been published, there will be more to say about the details. As with all of the FCC's regulations, they will only work to the extent that our community makes use of them through ongoing advocacy. And if history is our guide in this regard, these new rules will be a tremendous success. When our community was called upon to make our voices heard, you were heard in no uncertain terms. Your advocacy made this transformative achievement possible. It will be up to all of us to continue to hold companies accountable for their responsibilities under these new rules to make their video programming devices fully accessible to us.

You did it! Congratulations, and thank you!

Mark Richert, Esq.
Director, Public Policy, AFB

October 30, 2013
(Highlighting added by ADP)