NAD Applauds Congress for Increasing Access to Technology and the Internet

On Friday, October 8, President Barack Obama will sign the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 into law and deliver brief remarks on the impact of this law on individuals with disabilities. Bobbie Beth Scoggins, President of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) with Chief Executive Officer Nancy Bloch and Law and Advocacy Director Rosaline Crawford will be on hand to witness this historic event at the White House, which will be streamed

The NAD applauds Congress for passage of this landmark legislation will improve access to communication, television, and the Internet for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, late deafened and deaf-blind.

“The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act is one of the most significant victories for our community since the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed 20 years ago. It will enable 36 million deaf and hard of hearing people to participate in the Internet age by ensuring captioning of television programs on the Internet, a closed caption button on television remote controls, hearing aid compatibility for Internet telephones, and communications equipment for individuals who are deaf-blind, and more,” said Bobbie Beth Scoggins, NAD President. “While we fell short in some areas, such as requiring web TV episodes distributed only on the Internet to be captioned, this is a step in the right direction to make the web accessible. For many of us, the quality of our lives depend on an accessible Internet and we appreciate Congress’ recognition of this essential civil right.”

The passage of this Act culminates a legislative process that has involved congressional hearings, intensive discussions with various companies and trade associations, and extensive advocacy by the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT) of which the NAD is a co-founder, leader, and steering committee member. COAT, a coalition of more than 300 organizational affiliates, promotes full access by people with disabilities to evolving high speed broadband, wireless and other Internet Protocol (IP) technologies. Other COAT co-founding organizations include the American Association of People with Disabilities, American Council of the Blind, American Foundation for the Blind, and Communication Service for the Deaf.

The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (S. 3304) will significantly increase accessibility for Americans with disabilities to the indispensable telecommunications technology tools of the 21st century by:

  • Making access to the Web possible 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 telephone equipment used to make calls over the Internet is compatible with hearing aids
  • For low-income Americans who are both deaf and blind, providing up to $10 million per year to purchase communications equipment to access the telephone system and the Internet so these individuals can more fully participate in society.

“This Act was achieved through bipartisan support.” said NAD President Scoggins. “The NAD looks forward to working with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on the rulemakings expected over the next several years to fulfill the requirements of the Act. With the continued support of our members we will ensure that the final regulations provide the access that deaf and hard of hearing people need.”

The NAD would like to recognize and thank a number of members who played a key role in moving the legislation forward. In the U.S. Senate, the bill was championed by Senator Pryor (D-AR), with the support of Senator Kerry (D-MA), Senator Rockefeller (D-WV), Senator Hutchison (R-TX), and Senator Ensign (R-NV).  In the U.S. House, it was authored and championed by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), with the support of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA). In addition, the NAD would like to recognize AT&T, Verizon, USTelecom, and Windstream who provided early and staunch support for the legislation. Furthermore, the NAD would like to thank the COAT steering committee representatives — including NAD Law and Advocacy Director Rosaline Crawford — who provided amazing dedication and commitment in shepherding this legislation through Congress.

About NAD
The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is the nation’s premier civil rights organization of, by and for deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States of America. Established in 1880, the NAD was shaped by deaf leaders who believed in the right of the American deaf community to use sign language, to congregate on issues important to them, and to have its interests represented at the national level. These beliefs remain true to this day, with American Sign Language as a core value.

The advocacy scope of the NAD is broad, covering a lifetime and impacting future generations in the areas of early intervention, education, employment, health care, technology, telecommunications, youth leadership, and more – improving the lives of millions of deaf and hard of hearing Americans. The NAD also carries out its federal advocacy work through coalition efforts with specialized national deaf and hard of hearing organizations, as well as coalitions representing national cross-disability organizations.

Contact: Shane H. Feldman, Email or 301-587-1788.