Reinforcing Industry’s Commitment to the Increased Accessibility of ICT for Persons with Disabilities
Four years ago, Congress passed the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA), which outlined a number of communications accessibility obligations intended “to help ensure that individuals with disabilities are able to fully utilize communications services and equipment.” TIA’s member companies’ products are directly affected by the CVAA, and TIA and its members are committed to not only meeting the letter and spirit of the CVAA, but surpassing it to strive for access for all consumers with disabilities. TIA and its member companies supported the passage of the CVAA in 2010, and have worked collaboratively with the FCC in its implementation efforts since then. Before and throughout this process, manufacturers have shown a commitment to Congress’ intent in the CVAA, which has resulted in increased accessibility of information and communications technology (ICT).
While the FCC is charged with implementing the CVAA through the drafting of new regulations as well as making appropriate changes to some existing regulations, Congress also included another important requirement in the law: every two years, the FCC must write a report to Congress evaluating its implementation of the CVAA, and the effectiveness of the law. Already in 2012, the FCC completed the first of these reports. Towards informing the second report, due to Congress in October 2014, on July 15, 2014, TIA submitted its input to inform the FCC’s 2nd Biennial Report (available here).
In our filing, we discuss how since the CVAA regulations came into effect somewhat recently, it is still very difficult to specifically quantify the CVAA’s impact. This said, it is safe to say that the CVAA’s requirements have generally led to increased accessibility across ICT products and services, and will continue to do so. Building on the Commission’s regulations, TIA’s member companies continue to ensure that new product accessibility features are incorporated into the design process for new product cycles. Industry members view the inclusion of people with disabilities to be crucial to this process and they have been (and plan to continue to) liaising with the disability community to develop and share best practices and to develop standards for inclusive design.
Beyond the regulatory obligation, the inclusion of more accessibility features in ICT products represents an increasing business opportunity for manufacturers. This opportunity is due to, among other factors, the rapid expansion of the “Baby Boomer” demographic and the mobile senior market. Through direct consultations, focus groups, inter-stakeholder collaboration and other means, TIA members are working to identify success patterns for the adoption of accessible ICT solutions for those with disabilities, also taking into consideration the unique challenges associated with uptake of advanced solutions by the ageing. As an industry, these companies work through TIA to conduct similar outreach (see a previous TIA blog post on TIA’s accessibility activities for some examples of this outreach). These considerations build on the premise of universal design, where many of the same features that can be beneficial from an accessibility perspective are also directly beneficial for those that are ageing.
These successful efforts on industry’s part have been facilitated by the Commission’s use of a flexible approach to regulation of disability access that affords manufacturers the opportunity to determine the appropriate technical approach or procedure for their organizations while meeting the requirements of the CVAA consistent with Congressional intent. We’ve long argued that the strict application of the CVAA would harm the public interest without meaningfully increasing access to advanced communications services and products for persons with disabilities, so it is important that the Commission continue to recognize the need for flexibility, which will help foster continued investment and innovation in this area.