21st CVAA Law Supports Wireless and Online Freedom for People with Disabilities
By Jenifer Simpson, AAPD Senior Director for Government Affairs
Leaders from the disability community spoke on June 16, 2011 at the American Computing & Machinery annual conference, "Computers, Freedom & Privacy or CFP2011," held at the Georgetown Law school conference center in Washington, DC. Their panel entitled "Accessible and Usable Technologies Support the Freedom of People with Disabilities" linked the requirements of the 21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (“21st CVAA”) with freedom and privacy for people with disabilities.
“There is no freedom and little privacy for many people with disabilities,”said Jenifer Simpson of AAPD “unless the technology devices and tools that connect with the Internet are designed with accessibility at the outset.” Mark Richert of the American Foundation for the Blind told the audience that "The 21st CVAA is the most sweeping accessible technology legislation ever enacted." He then detailed many of the provisions of the Act that support access to online content for people with visual and other disabilities. He noted that content has to be constructed also so that it can be made usable for people with disabilities, such as users of screen readers. Jim House of Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing mentioned the recent U.N. report that says in essence that "Access to the Internet is a human right and that includes people with disabilities."
These speakers explained the new law’s regulatory requirements for captioning of television shown on the Internet, for accessible browsers in wireless broadband devices for blind people, for creation of an equipment distribution program for deaf-blind people to connect to the Internet, hearing aid compatibility of Internet-enabled or smart phones, and video description of television for people who are blind. They also provided examples of current technologies that do and don't include accessibility. Apple, Blackberry and Google technologies were part of this discussion, as well as the wireless industry's new online tool that allows the user to search for a wireless device based on types of features and specific disability manifestations.
Conference audience members raised questions about the schedule for implementation of the new law – most of the regulations should be issued by the FCC by the end of 2013 --and whether there were research funds available for new technologies. COAT panelists emphasized the importance of dissemination of information about accessibility solutions; additionally, Mark Richert noted that "There are already many solutions, they just need to be incorporated." Audience members included Andrew Phillips of the National Association of the Deaf and Angela Campbell of the Institute for Public Representation who works pro bono on captioning issues. The "Computers, Freedom & Privacy” conference addressed multiple privacy, cyber security and political freedom issues from both national and international perspectives.
Online tool to assist in finding the best wireless device is at http://www.accesswireless.org/Home.aspx, includes open captioned videoclip.
For more on the Conference, visit http://www.cfp.org/2011/wiki/index.php/Main_Page
For further details on the 21st CVAA, please write firstname.lastname@example.org
Can you provide examples of current technologies that do or don't include accessibility? Please share your thoughts in comments below.