Last week, the Federal Communicatons Commission released a Report and Order adopting rules to implement certain closed captioning provisions of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA).
The details and why this is a big deal? They’re requiring that all video programming that is shown on television with closed captions be closed captioned when delivered on the Internet. These rules will be phased in over a two-year period. As more and more media is making the transition to not only digital format, but digital distribution and playback (via the web), it is critical that these accessibility options are not stripped from them.
Related to that is an additional part of the new rule. The above paragraph is talking about content and keeping the captioning attached. This second part addresses the physical equipment – set-top boxes, tablets, televisions etc. This “hardware” have to include built-in closed caption decoder circuitry or capability to display closed-captioned video programming. Granted, there is the “readily achievable” caveat included for devices with screens smaller than 13 inches. But what I think is positive, is that once this is standard practice, I think we’ll see it on many more devices regardles of size. The “no more excuses” date? January 1, 2014. So any new devices created or imported after that date must allow for playback that includes closed captioning.
Closed captioning has been around for so long I think we have forgotten how pervasive it is, and don’t really think of it so much as a disability accommodation. English language learners use it; we see it in bars and airports and doctors’ offices; even the gym. However, closed captioning is, at its heart, an access issue – access to information. In the last few years, the lack of captioning online has had a significant impact on access for individuals with disabilities to videos played on the Internet. It was painfully obvious to see programming transferred to this new medium, but the accessibility did not. The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act addressed this in the law. This FCC report and rule for implementation is the first step of taking this from paper to practice. So, as a community, it’s a great week to take a moment and celebrate the promise of the future. Have no doubt, there’ll be more battles relating to implementation, but for today, it’s a wonderful win.
For those of you who would like to read it (and I encourage you to do so), the full Report and Order: