U.S. Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR) and John Kerry (D-MA) announced today that their legislation to improve access to the Internet and other technologies for blind and deaf individuals has passed the Senate Commerce Committee. The bill can now be considered by the full Senate.
"The Internet and mobile devices can open up doors for Americans with disabilities, giving people new tools to help them communicate, learn, or run a business. As the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act approaches, now is the time to ensure that every individual has access to today's innovative technologies. This legislation will help us achieve this goal and give all Americans the opportunity to fully participate and compete in the 21st Century marketplace."
"In the digital age, an inclusive America demands that no person with a disability is left behind either online or offline," said Sen. Kerry. "The goal of our bill is crystal clear. We must ensure that Americans with disabilities have every opportunity to access our shared communications infrastructure. Anything less than our best effort dishonors the Americans with Disabilities Act and all that's been accomplished over the twenty years since its passage."
The Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act will improve overall access to audio and visual materials on the Internet for the deaf and blind. Specifically, the legislation will:
* Create a one-stop shop for information on online products and services available to blind and deaf individuals;
* Close existing gaps in accessibility by requiring technology like smart devices, including an iPhone or Blackberry, to be hearing aid compatible;
* Require that programming shown on television also be closed captioned and video described when it is posted on the Internet. ex., nightly news, Razorback games, Lost;
* Require video programming devices, such mp3 players and DVRs, to be capable of closed captioning, video description and emergency alerts; and
* Authorize federal support for specialized equipment for deaf or blind individuals.