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Accessibility: Connecting People - Making Lives Better

by Employee on ‎10-08-2010 04:59 PM

President Obama Signs S 3304.jpg Today, I went to the White House to watch as President Obama signed the “21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010,” S 3304, into law.  The bill passed the Senate in August and the House in September.


What was tremendously satisfying to me was to see the culmination of nearly three years work to enact into law an approach to accessibility that has been at the heart of our commitment to universal design.


We are deeply invested in using communications technology to connect people to the larger resources of the community in ways that help make lives better.  Having telecommunications technology more fully accessible to members of the disability community is one of the key ways we achieve that goal.


Verizon is extremely proud to have walked beside the most passionate of advocates in the passage of this landmark legislation.  Our team – led by Jeff Kramer – worked collaboratively with leading national disability advocates, industry colleagues, the U.S. Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ensure that this measure will improve access to communication, television, and the Internet for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, late deafened and deaf-blind.


So, as I take a moment to pause and enjoy this day, I also reflect that there is more work to be done as the FCC prepares to implement the law over the next several years.


For Verizon’s part, we will continue to work with all parties to ensure that the law is properly implemented.





Here is a summary of some of the key provisions of the new law:


  • The bill addresses both communications access and video access. 


  • The law will require that phone-type equipment and services – such as Skype – used over the Internet be accessible, including compatibility with hearing aids, and requires Internet-based service providers to contribute to the Interstate Relay Fund. 
  • The legislation designates $10 million from the Interstate Relay Service Fund for equipment for the deaf/blind and;
  • authorizes an FCC advisory committee to develop a real-time text digital standard to replace TTY communications for emergency situations. 


  • It creates a clearinghouse for accessible product information and a more consumer-friendly enforcement procedure. 
  • Internet browsers on wireless devices must be made accessible by the end of 2013, through the handset or through third party applications, if technically feasible. 


  • The new law extends existing closed captioning requirements for television sets to additional video services and devices. 
  • Among other things, the law authorizes an advisory committee to set standards for caption decoder circuitry or display capability in all video programming devices, including PDAs, computers, iPods, cell phones, DVD players, TiVo devices and battery-operated TVs. 
  • These standards would apply to screens smaller than 13 inches unless it is not technically feasible or achievable. 
  • It also extends closed captioning obligations to video programming provided by, or generally considered comparable to programming provided by, a television broadcast station, even when distributed over the Internet if initially aired on television. 
  • It does not cover user-generated content (e.g., YouTube videos posted by individuals)


  • It also restores video description rules that were overturned by the courts and does so in a series of steps over a 10 year period that may expand the required markets and hours of programming and requires that access to closed captions via remote control and on-screen menus as well as television controls and on-screen menus by people who are blind are easy to access. 

Making a Difference for Our Customers & Communities
The Responsibility Blog — Learn how Verizon is using communications technology to connect people to the larger resources of the community—education, health care, accessibility and safety—in ways that make lives better. Visit the Verizon Communications Corporate Responsibility Report. We hope you will share your views with us.

To view vital speeches given by our authors, visit our speeches page.

About the Authors

Rose Kirk

V.P. of Global Corporate Citizenship and President of the Verizon Foundation

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Rose leads Verizon's global corporate responsibility initiatives and philanthropic strategy, which focuses on applying Verizon's technology to improve education, healthcare and energy management.

James Gowen

Chief Sustainability Officer/
V.P. of Services Operations

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James oversees Verizon’s supply chain, vehicle fleet, investment recovery, purchasing and materials management and sustainability initiatives.

Jack McArtney

Director of Corporate and Community Responsibility

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Jack promotes digital wellness and online safety. He works with parents, educators, service providers, application developers and industry leaders to foster responsible use of Verizon's mobile and broadband networks.

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