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For the second installment in our blog series on Sections 204 and 205 of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) we answer some of the most common questions on the requirements, complaint process, support and documentation as outlined in report and order FCC 13-138.

Requirements and Limitations

Are there set performance objectives, technical, or functional requirements?

No. The FCC does not provide any performance objectives or technical requirements. It does provide 11 different features that, when present, must be accessible by audio or, when not present, via visual indicators or on-screen text in a manner that is operable by people who are blind or visually impaired.

The activation of accessibility features such as closed caption and video description are also not tied to specific technical or functional requirements – the only examples of mechanisms that would meet the requirement for access reasonable comparable to a single button or icon are provided.

Are there limitations on making covered apparatus accessible?

Apparatuses are only required to be accessible if achievable. Achievability is defined as being performed with reasonable effort or expense, and based equally on the four criteria below from 47 CFR 79.109:

  1. The nature and cost of the steps needed to meet the requirements of this section with respect to the specific equipment or service in question.
  2. The technical and economic impact on the operation of the manufacturer or provider and on the operation of the specific equipment or service in question, including on the development and deployment of new communications technologies.
  3. The type of operations of the manufacturer or provider.
  4. The extent to which the service provider or manufacturer in question offers accessible services or equipment containing varying degrees of functionality and features, and offers them at differing price points.

Note: This limitation only applies to access by people who are blind and visually impaired. It does not apply to activating accessibility features such as closed caption and video description features.

Complaints

What are the complaint procedures?

The FCC adopts the same procedures for the filing of consumer complaints as are used for the IP-closed captioning requirements. These include the following:

  • (i) Require complainants to file within 60 days after experiencing a problem;
  • (ii) Allow complainants to file their complaints either with the Commission or with the covered entity responsible for the problem;
  • (iii) Provide the entity 30 days to respond to the complaint;
  • (iv) Do not specify a time frame within which the Commission must act on complaints; (v) follow the Commission’s flexible, case-by-case forfeiture approach governed by Section 1.80(b)(6) of our rules;
  • (v) Specify the information that the complaints must include;
  • (vi) Require covered entities to make contact information available to end users for the receipt and handling of written complaints.   (FCC 13-138 ¶ 120)

What are the sanctions or remedies?

The FCC will use a case-by-case approach to fashioning sanctions and remedies governed by Section 1.80 of the FCC rules. The Commission will adjudicate complaints on the merits and may employ the full range of sanctions and remedies available to the Commission under the CVAA. (FCC 13-138 ¶ 128)

Support and Documentation

How must MVPDs provide notification of accessible navigation devices under Section 205?

MVPDs are required to provide notification about the availability of accessible navigation devices to people who are blind and visually impaired. According to 47 CFR 79.108, MVPDs must:

  • Provide notice on their official websites about the availability of accessible navigation devices.
  • Prominently display information about accessible navigation devices and separate solutions on their websites in a way that makes such information available to all current and potential subscribers.
  • Provide notice that publicizes the availability of accessible devices and separate solutions, that explain the means for making requests for accessible equipment, and that provide information about the specific person, office or entity to which such requests are to be made.
  • Provide all information above in a website format that is accessible to people with disabilities.

The FCC is currently seeking additional public comment on how MVPD and equipment manufacturers must notify and alert people who are blind or visually impaired about the accessibility of apparatuses. This includes where equipment manufacturers under Section 204 and 205 should be required to indicate which equipment is accessible.

Where must contact information be provided for customers?

According to the FCC, “A covered entity must make contact information available for the receipt and handling of complaints. The contact information required must include the name of a person with primary responsibility for accessibility compliance issues. This contact information must also include that person’s title or office, telephone number, fax number, postal mailing address, and e-mail address.  A covered entity must keep this information current and update it within 10 business days of any change.” (FCC 13-138 Appendix B) The FCC encourages entities to provide this information on their website with other contact information.

Are there any record keeping requirements?

While there are no specific recordkeeping requirements, the FCC indicates that “In response to a complaint, a covered entity must file with the Commission sufficient records and documentation to prove that it was (and remains) in compliance with the Commission’s rules.” (FCC 13-138 ¶ 126)  This means that covered entities have the burden of proof.  When an entity is found not in compliance, then the entity must file with the FCC “sufficient records and documentation to explain the reasons for its non-compliance, show what remedial steps it has taken or will take, and show why such steps have been or will be sufficient to remediate the problem.” (FCC 13-138 ¶ 126)

Check back next week for the third post in this series: CVAA Sections 204 and 205 – Section 204 Overview.