The CVTA is legislation in the U.S. Congress that would expand the authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to require accessible communications and accessible video programming on television and online. Currently, the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) defines what programming must have audio description and the minimum requirements for making communications equipment accessible. In the last 12 years, we have reached the limits of that law as the programming and communications landscapes have evolved and become more digital. AFB and other disability organizations have worked to introduce updates to the CVAA that bring the FCC regulations more in line with current access needs.
The CVTA would change the FCC regulations to:
- Require audio description on almost all television programming;
- Require audio description on video programming delivered via Internet Protocol that is posted by large content creators;
- Require online video platforms to provide easy-to-use audio description authoring tools for content creators;
- Improve the quality of audio description;
- Expand the availability of closed captioning video programming on television and online;
- Make closed captioning and audio description settings easier to find and use;
- Require video conferencing services to be compatible with assistive technologies, third-party captioning and interpreting services, and telecommunications relay services;
- Require access to emergency services via real time text, direct video calling, or telecommunications relay services; and
- Expand access to the National DeafBlind Equipment Distribution Program and double the program’s authorization to $20 million.
Accessibility requirements for people with disabilities have not kept pace with changing technologies. For example, the CVAA, passed in 2010, made great strides in improving access to audio description. However, it only required certain television channels in certain market areas to provide 87.5 hours of audio described programming every quarter. That averages less than an hour per day and excludes online programming altogether. As of 2022, the rules apply to the top 80 market areas in the US. Moreover, even when audio description is available, the technical quality and the quality of access provided can be inconsistent.
In addition, disputes over the term “interoperable video conferencing service” have prevented the FCC from issuing regulations on the accessibility of video conferencing services that have been used frequently for work, school, and social connections since the pandemic began. Telehealth is an area in which video calls have been especially difficult to navigate. Data from AFB’s Journey Forward study, which was conducted in summer 2021, found that of 330 participants who had used telehealth during the pandemic, 57% reported that they found telehealth to be inaccessible in some way. One Journey Forward participant wrote, “My doctor had to end up using FaceTime to communicate with me because I was not able to communicate with her via the telehealth platform.”Who supports this bill?
Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Representative Anna Eshoo of California introduced this bill on November 17, 2022.
- Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)
- Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA)
- Senator Bernie Sanders (VT)
- Senator Ron Wyden (OR)
- Senator Tammy Duckworth (IL)
- Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA)
- Representative Mary Gay Scanlon (PA)
- Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC)
- Representative Mike Levin (CA)
- Representative Katie Porter (CA)
- Access Living
- Access Ready
- American Council of the Blind
- American Foundation for the Blind
- Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs
- Blinded Veterans Association
- Carroll Center for the Blind
- Communication Service for the Deaf
- Hearing Loss Association of America
- National Association of the Deaf
- National Federation of the Blind
- Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Inc.
- Perkins School For The Blind
- United Spinal Association