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Last week’s post in our blog series on Sections 204 and 205 of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) gave an overview of Section 204. This week we’ll take a more detailed look at who must comply, what is and is not covered, what must be made accessible and how to achieve accessibility as outlined in report and order FCC 13-138.

Who must comply?

Digital apparatus manufacturers who make or import apparatuses for the recording and playback of video programming for sale in the United States. (FCC 13-138 ¶ 38)

What is covered?

  • Physical digital apparatuses designed to receive or play back video programming transmitted in digital format simultaneously with sound (including, but not limited to, IP video programming and removable media such as DVDs)
  • Includes the physical hardware and all integrated software used to watch video that is pre-installed by manufacturer, or that the manufacturer requires the user to install in order to access video programming (FCC 13-138 ¶ 39)
  • Televisions and computers without MVPD conditional access mechanism device capability
    • This includes mobile devices (such as tablets and smartphones) that have installed video playback or recording capabilities but do not have pre-installed MVPD applications
  • Removable media players
  • DVD and Blu-ray players
  • DVRs (that do not have MVPD conditional access mechanism e.g. ATSC DVR)
  • OnDemand video programming pre-installed on apparatuses by manufacturer
    • E.g., video players and user interfaces of video applications, such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon

What is not covered?

  • Web-based video players (FCC 13-138 ¶ 40)
  • Non pre-installed versions of onDemand video services such as Netflix, Hulu, etc., unless directed by the manufacture to be installed
  • User installed media players, unless manufacturer directs users to install it to access video programming
  • Anything provided by an MVPD with a conditional access mechanism
  • Professional and commercial equipment and public safety and enterprise equipment
  • Routers
  • Travel providers, bars, and other entertainment venues that make available devices for video programming
  • Functions that are not related to video programming and are not required to access video programming
  • Baby monitors, digital cameras, display only monitors, projectors, and devices that are primarily designed for still video with limited video playback capability
    • The CVAA does not permit the FCC to issue an exception for these devices.
    • Hence, compliance delayed for 8 total years (5 additional years) for all of these devices.
    • Some of the above devices may continually be granted delayed compliance requirements.

What must be accessible?

There are two broad areas that must be made accessible – User Interface and Controls.

User interface (UI)

The UI must “be designed, developed, and fabricated so that control of appropriate built-in apparatus functions are accessible to and usable by individuals who are blind or visually impaired.” (FCC 13-138 ¶ 54) This includes the user interface and any potential programming guides. While not every type of device needs to be accessible, an accessible solution must be provided by the manufacturer.

Practically speaking, this requirement covers on-screen menus and other visual indicators required to use the video programming features of the device

Note: The FCC is proposing and seeking comments on the definition of usable. In other CVAA contexts, the has definition usable as it related to people with disabilities is:

  • Access to the full functionality of the product
  • Access to documentation for the product, including instructions, product information and including accessible feature information, documentation, bills and technical support which is provided to individuals without disabilities. (FCC 13-138 ¶ 138)

Built in access to closed captioning and video description features through a mechanism that is reasonably comparable to a button, key, or icon designated for activating the closed captioning or accessibility features.

Practically speaking, this means there must be a straightforward mechanism to activate closed captions for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and a similar mechanism to activate video description for people who are blind or visually impaired. The FCC does not define the specific mechanism and does not require it be a specific number of steps. (p. 54 FCC 131-138)  Instead, examples are given of mechanisms that would meet this requirement. They include, but are not limited to:

  • A dedicated button,  key, or icon
  • Voice commands
  • Gestures
  • A single-step activation from the same location as the volume controls

However, turning off the device in order to access the closed captioning activation mechanism through another menu is indicated as not an acceptable method. (FCC 13-138 ¶ 81)

Note: This does not apply to other accessibility features such as enabling spoken menus or customization of fonts and colors for captions. It only applies to turning on or off closed captions and video description.

How to Achieve Accessibility

Provide audio output for covered features of the device that contain on-screen menus or visual indicators. Audio can be integrated into the device, or can be a peripheral to the device.  However, it must be available for real time access.

If the device contains any of the following features, they must be made accessible:

  • Power on and off
  • Volume adjust and mute
  • Channel / Program Selection
  • Display Channel / Program Information
  • Configuration – Setup
  • Configuration – CC Control
  • Configuration – CC Options
  • Configuration – Video Description Control
  • Display Configuration Info
  • Playback Functions
  • Input Selection

Ensure features that do not have on-screen or visual indications are operable by people who are blind or visually impaired. Some features such as power on and off, volume adjustment, and mute functions may not have visual indicators and therefore can be made accessible without requiring audio output. These features can be made accessible by following the criteria below:

  • Operable without vision: The digital apparatus must provide at least one mode that does not require user vision.
  • Operable with low vision and limited or no hearing: The digital apparatus must provide at least one mode that permits operation by users with visual acuity between 20/70 and 20/200, without relying on audio output.
  • Operable with little or no color perception: The digital apparatus must provide at least one mode that does not require user color perception.

Note: The above criteria are the same criteria for operation that are used for the CVAA ACS report and order as performance objectives that address access by people who are blind or visually impaired.

Next up in the CVAA Sections 204 and 205 Series – Section 205 Overview.