FCC moves to implement disability access regulations
Americas, October 11 2011
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will give companies two years to comply with new regulations to make advanced communications services accessible to people with disabilities.
“As our reliance on technological innovations driven by broadband continues to enhance the way we communicate, this Order will ensure that people with disabilities are not left behind; that they can compete for jobs, participate in online commerce, and engage in civic dialogue using the advanced communications technologies of today — and the technologies of tomorrow that haven’t even been invented yet,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement.
The order, announced late Friday, is meant to implement the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010.
The law requires that providers of advanced communications services, such as emails and text messages, make their products accessible to people with disabilities, unless it is not possible to do so.
The FCC calls the law the most significant accessibility legislation since the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Only 41 percent of Americans with disabilities have high-speed Internet access at home, compared to 69 percent nationally, according to FCC data.
Commissioner Robert McDowell said the rules would help the 54 million Americans with disabilities gain access to online communication.
“At the same time, we have provided the certainty necessary for the innovators investing risk capital to continue to satisfy consumer demand with new products and services,” he added.
Commissioner Michael Copps dissented from the order in part. He believes that the commission should have included automatic software updates under the rules’ requirements.