Home New Legislation Set to Improve Internet Access for the Disabled

New Legislation Set to Improve Internet Access for the Disabled

President Obama signed into law today the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, legislation that will help people with disabilities access and participate in the digital world.

The law establishes federal guidelines that will require the telecommunications industry to make sure that the devices they build and programs they transmit are accessible to those with hearing and vision impairments. The new law requires a number of measures including an improved UI for smart phones that includes verbal commands, captioning for online TV programming, and compatibility between Internet telephone calls and hearing aids.

As the President noted in the signing, the law “sets new standards so that Americans with disabilities can take advantage of the technology our economy depends on. And that’s especially important in today’s economy, when every worker needs the necessary skills to compete for the jobs of the future.”

Although some argue that these standards will likely help improve the quality of the technology that is available, others note that the implications will go beyond simply access to better technology. The cost of the equipment used to fulfill some of these tasks now and to make the Internet accessible is estimated to cost deaf and blind Americans about $10 million a year.

Before signing the measure today, the president noted that 2010 marks the 20th anniversary of the enactment of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act. But much of the emphasis of the ADA has been on ensuring access to the physical world. The law signed into effect today is meant to ensure that access also applies to the digital world.

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