September 29, 2010: Markey Landmark Internet Access Legislation for Blind, Deaf Headed to President

Congressman Releases New Web Video on the 21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act

WASHINGTON,D.C. (September 29, 2010) – The House and Senate have passed the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act authored by Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.). This landmark legislation will make it easier for the blind and deaf to have access to the Internet, smart phones, television programming and other communications and video technologies.

Whether it’s a Braille reader or a broadband connection, access to technology is not a political issue- it’s a participation issue,” said Rep. Ed Markey. “Two decades ago, Americans with disabilities couldn’t get around if buildings weren’t wheelchair accessible; today it’s about being Web accessible.”

Rep.Markey also released a new VIDEO today on the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, please click here to watch .

Lastnight, the House gave final passage, by voice vote, to Markey’s measurewhich was championed in the Senate by Mark Pryor (D-AR). The bill is now headed to President Obama, who is expected to sign it into law, delivering one of the most significant victories for the disability community since the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed 20 years ago.

The ADA mandated physical ramps into buildings. Today, individuals with disabilities need online ramps to the Internet so they can get to the Web from wherever they happen to be,” said Markey. “Passage of this bill is a landmark achievement in the fight forequal access to technology for all Americans. From the time of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan - through the Americans with Disabilities Act -to closed captioning for television programming and the ability of individuals who are deaf to make telephone calls - and now to the comprehensive communications and video accessibility bill that has passed both the House and Senate, we’ve made great strides.”

Markey’s21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (H.R. 3101) significantly increases accessibility for Americans with disabilities tothe indispensable telecommunications and video technology tools of the 21st century by:

-   Making access to the Web through improved user interfaces for smart phones

-   Enabling Americans who are blind to enjoy TV more fully through audible descriptions of the on-screen action

-   Making TV program guides and selection menus accessible to people with vision loss

-   Providing Americans who are deaf the ability to watch new TV programs online with the captions included

-  Mandating that remote controls have a button or similar mechanism to easily access the closed captioning on broadcast and pay TV

-   Requiring that telecom equipment used to make calls over the Internet is compatible with hearing aids

-  For low-income Americans who are both deaf and blind, providing a shareof a total $10 million per year to purchase accessible Internet access and telecom services so these individuals can more fully participate in society.

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 Rep. Ed Markey and Legislative Director Mark Bayer celebrate the bill’s final passage on September 28, 2010, in front of the Helen Keller statue, with the leaders from the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology:  Karen Peltz Strauss, formerly with Communication Service for the Deaf; Jenifer Simpson, American Association of People with Disabilities; Rosaline Crawford, National Association of the Deaf. Their hands symbolize clapping in sign language.