18 January 2011 ~ Comments

New Law Brings Info and Entertainment to Everyone

What if you had access to millions of exciting images, but had no way of knowing what the images meant? That’s the situation many Americans face when they have a hearing loss and encounter uncaptioned video. It’s pretty frustrating to be shut out of such a major part of our culture.

The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act that was signed into law in October 2010 will do a lot for people with disabilities – make sure that phones are hearing-aid compatible, provide for reliable text access to emergency personnel, and assure that new technology is accessible to everyone, regardless of physical abilities.

But probably the biggest impact relates to captioning video on the internet.

Technology moves like lightning, and every day, the internet becomes more useful and more integrated with our lives.

You can bet the trend will continue, with more people watching everything imaginable over streaming connections, from favorite TV shows to space shuttle launches to political uprisings halfway around the world. Video on the internet opens up a path to new worlds, but without the words and ideas to accompany the pictures, the video is inaccessible to millions of people. The solution comes in the form of closed captioning.

The 21st Century CVA Act mandates that any video that will appear on broadcast TV and then on the internet must be closed captioned. This will provide deaf people with equal access to countless videos, both live and recorded, that would not have been available to them before the passage of the law. The new rules cover virtually all commercially produced programs that will be made in the future.

The law expands the definition of video programming so that the new rules will apply to all television-like programming on the internet.

This includes pre-produced programs first seen on broadcast TV, new programs produced by cable and satellite providers, and live programming.

Manufacturers will be making life easier for the hard-of-hearing, too.

The 21st Century CVA Act expands the parameters of a 1990 law that required that TVs larger than 13 inches be equipped for captioning. Now every device of every size that shows video and sound simultaneously – whether broadcast or over the internet – has to employ captioning technology, and also be able to relay audible descriptions for the blind.

Another segment of the law requires devices to be user friendly when it comes to turning captioning and video description on and off. That translates to a conspicuous placement on remote controls or in on-screen menus.

Like motorized vehicles or clothing we don’t weave ourselves – sure, there are ways to get through life without captioned video. But just like with those other modern conveniences, life is sure a lot better when we have the technology at our fingertips.

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