House Preps Communications Access Upgrade Bill

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Washington -- The House Communications Subcommittee has
scheduled a markup Wednesday (June 30) on HR 3101, the Twenty-first Century
Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009
.

The bill is an effort to update accessibility requirements
in the Telecommunications Act to reflect the rise of broadband and other
communications services as central to full participation in society. The last
update was in 1996.

Among the bill's proposed changes are: 1) requiring
equipment that small-screen video devices convey closed captioning and
emergency information; 2) requiring user interfaces for viewing video on such
devices be accessible, including an accessibility button on remote controls;
and 3) reinstating FCC video description requirements for TV programming (they
were vacated by a D.C. court in 2002), applying closed-captioning requirements
to the Internet and requiring that video programming convey emergency
information to the visually impaired.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association
applauded the spirit of the bill, but argued that the industry should be given
the time and flexibility to respond by phasing in online captioning obligations,
for instance.

The Consumer Electronics Association has taken a harder line
on the bill. CEA president Gary Shapiro has told Congress that the bill is overly
broad, will chill innovation and ignores products already on the market that
serve the needs of people with disabilities.

In
a memo on the hearing, the Democrats said to expect a manager's amendment to be
substituted for the base bill on Wednesday, with some changes following ongoing
talks with staff and stakeholders.

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