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On landmark law's 20th anniversary, House passes bill to make Internet more accessible for disabled

The House late Monday passed a bill that aimed at making the Internet and mobile phones more accessible to the disabled through video captions for the hearing impaired and better descriptions of smartphone screens for the blind.

The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, which was sponsored by Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), cleared the House on a vote of 348 to 23. Its approval came on the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act and as a similar bill works its way through the Senate.

"The ADA mandated physical ramps into buildings," Markey said in a statement. "Today, individuals with disabilities need online ramps to the Internet so they can get to the Web from wherever they happen to be."

Some key points of the legislation:

  • It would become easier for the blind to use smartphones with improved interfaces;
  • Television shows and movies would have better audio descriptions to benefit the visually impaired;
  • Cable television program guides would have easier-to-use selection menus to benefit the visually impaired;
  • Online television shows would be required to have closed-captioning;
  • Remote controls would have to include an easy-to-use button for closed captioning on broadcast and paid television;
  • Internet-based phone calls will have to be compatible with hearing aids;
  • Low-income deaf and blind consumers would be able to tap a $10 million a year program for help in purchasing Internet and telecom services.

By Cecilia Kang  |  July 26, 2010; 9:50 PM ET
 
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Comments

The question now is how can organizations, small and large, public and private, ensure that their websites will abide by these new standards? I joined a Boston based company a few weeks ago, based upon their passion to help put web teams in control to these types of issues. The product is WebWorxx, if you want to be able to check everyday if your website every day is accessible to everyone, take a look at: http://www.vamosa.com/webworxx-c121

Posted by: kevinobrien | July 27, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

This is great news and obviously a huge step in the right direction! It took many years for the FCC to mandate captions for broadcast television, and in hindsight it was a no-brainer. H.R.3101 is a necessary extension for online media. There are some interesting companies popping up that have begun to address compliance in innovative ways. For example, 3Play Media (www.3playmedia.com) uses a new technology that reduces the cost of high quality transcription and captioning services for web video.

Posted by: tkhesin | July 27, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

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