06 August 2010 ~ Comments

Providing Accessibility in the 21st Century

This year, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the “Americans with Disabilities Act,” landmark legislation that made the world much friendlier for a large portion of our population.

People who live with challenges appreciate the ADA every day, but this anniversary was special, because it also marked the passage of another important piece of legislation.

On July 26, 2010, the U. S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3101, commonly dubbed the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. Legislators recognized the need for further changes in the communications industry, with a landslide vote of 348 to 23.

Although this bill still has many crucial steps to make before it is signed into law, the overwhelming vote for H.R. 3101 shows that our government leaders recognize the need to update accessibility laws to accommodate citizens living in the 21st century.

Where the ADA provided physical necessities like ramps on sidewalks and into buildings, and easier access to transportation, H.R. 3101 puts people with individuals in touch with all of the new technology that has become so essential in American life. With this new legislation, materials on the internet and in video will become much more accessible to those who have hearing loss.

H.R. 3101 was authored, introduced and championed by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA). The bill, if passed, would require television programs that are captioned for broadcast to be captioned when viewed over the internet, as well. The resolution would also lead to hearing-aid compatibility over internet-based telephone, improved relay services and funding, access to internet-based services and equipment, and requirements that would increase video description services for television broadcast.

The resolution has received bi-partisan support in the House, and has now gone to the U. S. Senate for a vote. The legislation has received ample support so far, but that doesn’t mean that it will pass with no opposition, or that its success is necessarily guaranteed. It is essential for advocates of H.R. 3101 to contact their legislators and voice their support of equal access for all.

You can make your opinion known by writing, calling, faxing, or emailing your two U. S. Senators. Contact information for all senators, including phone, e-mail and snail mail addresses, can be found at http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm.

Tell your U. S. Senators to vote for H.R. 3101 – the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, and help make technology more accessible to all.

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