On eve of ADA anniversary, lawmakers propose legislation to update technology accessibility regulations to ensure full and equal participation for people with disabilities in the digital age
Washington (July 25, 2023) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and author of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), and Representative Anna G. Eshoo (CA-16), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, today announced the reintroduction of the Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility (CVTA) Act. This legislation would update and strengthen existing accessibility regulations secured through Senator Markey’s CVAA to stay up-to-date with the proliferation of new technologies—from video conferencing platforms to artificial intelligence—which have become prevalent since the CVAA became law in 2010.
The CVTA builds upon the success of the CVAA and ensures individuals with disabilities have equal access to mainstream communication platforms and the technology services needed to participate in professional, educational, recreational, and civic spaces. The CVTA bolsters standards for television programming and emergency communication, expands accessibility requirements—including closed captions and audio descriptions—to online platforms and video conferencing services, and equips the federal government with the ability to improve accessibility of emerging technologies.
“As we celebrate the anniversary of the groundbreaking Americans with Disabilities Act, we must ensure our accessibility laws keep pace with the digital age. In the 13 years since Congress passed my 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, new technologies have brought new challenges for the disability community,” said Senator Markey. “In an increasingly digital world, where Americans work, study, receive health care, and engage in civic life online, these tools and services must be accessible for all. I thank Representative Eshoo for her partnership on our Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act, which will make sure accessibility will never be an afterthought—now or in the future.”
“Technology has evolved rapidly over the last two decades and much of our economy and day-to-day lives have moved online, but unfortunately, accessibility standards have stayed largely the same. Video conferencing and video streaming platforms used every day are not required to have audio descriptions or closed captions, leaving people with disabilities unable to use these tools that are essential to learn, work, connect with loved ones, and access crucial services,” said Representative Eshoo. “I’m proud to introduce the Communications, Video, and Technology Act with Senator Markey to update our current laws so people with disabilities can stay connected and have full access to the technology that is necessary to participate equally in the 21st Century.”
“Equal opportunity and accessibility go hand-in-hand. That is why the Commission works to promote accessible technology that can help everyone thrive in our technology-driven world. I thank Senator Markey and Congresswoman Eshoo for their continued leadership on this issue and for this new legislation, which will help support people with disabilities having equal access to communications products and services in today’s world, while at the same time laying a strong foundation for accessibility to new technologies in the future,” said Jessica Rosenworcel, Chairwoman of the FCC.
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.
Cosponsors in the Senate include Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
Specifically, the CVTA would:
The CVTA is endorsed by AccesSOS, Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell), American Council of the Blind, Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs, American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), Blinded Veterans Association, Carroll Center for the Blind, Center for Advanced Communications Policy, CommunicationFIRST, Communication Service for the Deaf, Deaf in Government, Hearing Loss Association of America, Kansas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, National Federation of the Blind, National Association of the Deaf, National Association of State Agencies of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (NASADHH), Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Inc., Perkins School For The Blind, United Spinal Association, and Voiceitt.
“Providing access for people who are blind, low vision and Deafblind through accessible information and communications technology is the moral imperative of the 21st Century; equally as important as providing physical access for people with disabilities in the 20th Century. The American Council of the Blind commends Senator Markey and Representative Eshoo for introducing the Communications, Video, Technology Accessibility Act. Once passed, the CVTA will ensure that critical communications technologies are accessible to people who are blind, low vision, and Deafblind and reiterate our nation’s commitment to accessible media and video content, regardless of how or where it is viewed by consumers,” said Dan Spoone, Interim Executive Director at American Council of the Blind (ACB).
“The Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs commends Senator Edward Markey and Representative Anna Eshoo for their leadership in introducing the Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act (CVTA) and ATAP is thrilled this bill would expand the National Deaf Blind Equipment Distribution Program. We urge Congress to consider and pass this forward-thinking piece of legislation that will ensure greater accessibility for communications and video technologies for people with disabilities,” said Audrey Busch, Executive Director at Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs.
“The Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act of 2023 would make a real difference in our lives as blind and low vision veterans. It would ensure we have equal access to communications, video, and technologies to stay connected with our families and friends, participate in civic life equally through digital meeting platforms, and access our favorite content with audio description,” said Timothy Hornik, Chief of Staff at Blinded Veterans Association.
“Communication Service for the Deaf, the largest non-profit organization in the U.S. devoted to serving deaf communities, stands fully behind these amendments to the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA). The CVAA has gone a long way toward achieving communication equity and digital inclusivity, but must be made contemporaneous if its intended spirit is to be fully realized. The race to introduce new technologies often happens without the disability community’s participation, negatively impacting the quality-of-life for this population. The Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act will ensure that no one is left behind, effectively close critical gaps in communication and video programming technologies that have occurred over the past 12 years, and enable all Americans with disabilities to benefit equally as new innovations are developed,” said Christopher Soukup, CEO of Communication Service for the Deaf.
“Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) commends Senator Edward Markey and Representative Anna Eshoo for their leadership in introducing the Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act (CVTA). This update to the groundbreaking 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act takes into account how rapidly technology is changing. For example, CVTA will ensure people will have access to video conferencing platforms with built-in accessibility features, such as automatic captioning functions that will allow people with hearing loss to be fully part of the conversation. That's real progress,” said Barbara Kelley, Executive Director of Hearing Loss Association for America (HLAA).
“As video content, online communication, and digital technology play a dominant role in all of our lives, it is critical that accessibility regulations keep pace with this rapidly evolving landscape. These regulations must include the promotion of audio description and captioning, and the ability to easily access these services, across all platforms and devices. Audio description and captioning provide blind and deafblind individuals with equal access not only to education and employment but also to culture and entertainment. We must be able not only to learn and work, but also to participate in the national and global conversation in order to be fully integrated into society and live the lives we want. We therefore commend Senator Markey for this forward-thinking legislation, and we urge his colleagues to work with him — and with the blind, deafblind, and disabled communities — toward its ultimate passage,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind.
“Since the original 21st Century Communication and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) was passed in 2010, there have been incredible advances in technology and telecommunications that require updates in the law to ensure equal access for everyone, including Deaf, DeafBlind, DeafDisabled, and Hard of Hearing people. The proposed bill includes new language that continues to improve on captioning of Internet streaming videos and adds visual access to sign language interpreting on television and other video formats. We urge immediate passage of this bill so that no one is left behind with each innovation,” said Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of National Association of the Deaf.
“The Communication, Video, and Technology Video Accessibility Act represents a pivotal step forward in eliminating accessibility barriers and bridging the digital divide. By championing digital inclusion and equity, we can empower individuals with disabilities to fully participate in the 21st-century communications landscape. Together, we can build a more accessible and inclusive future for all,” said AnnMarie Killian, Chief Executive Officer of Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (TDI).
"The American Foundation for the Blind applauds Senator Edward Markey and Representative Anna Eshoo for introduction of the Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act (CVTA), which assures that people with disabilities can continue to enjoy equal inclusion in emerging technologies and new media. When the Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA) was passed into law, it carried the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into 21st century communications technologies. Now, as we celebrate this week the 33rd anniversary of the ADA, the CVTA promises us further inclusion in this ever changing media and mobile communications landscape," said Eric Bridges, President and CEO of American Foundation for the Blind (AFB).
“We thank Senator Markey and Representative Eshoo for their leadership on the important issue of communications access. A true democracy does not exist until all of us are able to fully engage, participate and communicate across all communications video platforms,” said Vincenzo Piscopo, President and CEO of United Spinal Association.
“As a leading provider of accessible speech technologies for people with non-standard speech, Voiceitt is honored to support the Community, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act (CVTA), introduced today by Senator Ed Markey and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo. By addressing the need for accessibility in voice-activated devices in our phones, TVs, video conferencing, and personal assistants, this legislation opens access to the benefits of voice tech innovations to all segments of American society. Through the CVTA, these individuals will gain equal opportunities to leverage their voices and accomplish tasks independently in their homes and workplaces. This bill stands as a powerful advocate for the empowerment of Americans with speech disabilities, and we are proud to join the coalition to help pass this landmark legislation,” said Alyson Pace, CEO of Voiceitt.
“The Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act (CVTA) takes the next critical step in the historic efforts by people with disabilities to achieve effective and equal access to evolving communication and video programming technologies. Building upon the decades of federal accessibility legislation that came before it, the CVTA makes significant strides toward a more equitable digital future. I extend heartfelt gratitude toward Senator Ed Markey for his extraordinary leadership on and commitment to disability inclusion over these many decades, and commend both the Senator and Representative Anna Eshoo for continuing the journey toward communications equity through introduction of this legislation,” said Karen Peltz Strauss, National Disability Advocate, Historian, and Former Deputy Bureau Chief of the Federal Communications Commission’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau.
“The CVTA represents a landmark step toward equitable access for video, communications, and technology for a wide range of communities of people with disabilities. The Samuelson-Glushko Technology Law & Policy Clinic is proud to have contributed to the drafting of the bill on behalf of our client, Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (TDI), and is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with the bill’s broad coalition of advocates,” said Blake E. Reid, Outgoing Director at Samuelson-Glushko Technology Law & Policy Clinic.
Senator Markey is the author of the CVAA, which mandates accessibility of devices and services for the millions of Americans with disabilities and enables the use of a wide range of devices and services needed in the digital era. In November 2022, Senator Markey and Representative Eshoo first introduced the CVTA, which updates and amends the CVAA to keep pace with the proliferation of emerging technologies that have come online since Senator Markey’s 2010 bill was passed with bipartisan support. In February, Senator Markey wrote a letter to Twitter’s then-Chief Executive Officer, Elon Musk, demanding Musk reinstate Twitter’s accessibility team and continue its development and implementation of critical online features so that users with disabilities can fully access and utilize the social media platform. In May, Senator Markey and Representative Eshoo called upon the FCC to adopt proposals that would, for the first time, ensure video conferencing platforms comply with accessibility requirements for people with disabilities. In June 2023, Senator Markey and Representative Eshoo applauded the FCC’s unanimous vote to strengthen accessibility standards across video conferencing platforms.