The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act

The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act: Highlights of a New Landmark Communications Law

The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (H.R. 3101) ensures that individuals with vision or hearing loss, and other disabilities, can fully use broadband services and equipment and better access video programming devices such as remote controls, menus on DVD players, and more.

The law requires virtually all text communication, mobile phone web browsers, TVs, and broadcast emergency alerts to be fully accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. It also resulted in more than 60 hours a week of described video programming, and makes up to $10 million per year available to put expensive communications equipment in the hands of people who are deafblind.

Section 255

In 1996, Section 255 was added to U.S. telecommunications law to require companies who make telephones and those who provide telephone service (including wireless phones and service) to design their products and services to be accessible to people with disabilities, if it is readily achievable to do so. Section 255 applies to all telephone equipment and services at home, at work, and on the go.

The FCC's rules cover basic and special telecommunications services, including regular telephone calls, call waiting, speed dialing, call forwarding, computer-provided directory assistance, call monitoring, caller identification, call tracing, and repeat dialing. In addition, the rules cover interactive voice response (IVR) systems and voice mail. IVR systems are phone systems that provide callers with menus of choices.

The Internet and electronic mail are not currently covered under Section 255.

FCC Consumer Guide: Telecommunications Access for People with Disabilities

IP-Enabled Services (Voice over Internet Protocol—VOIP)

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a technology that allows you to make voice calls using a broadband Internet connection instead of a regular (or analog) phone line. The FCC has determined that interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers must comply with Section 255.