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The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) was passed to ensure new modes of electronic communication and delivery of video programming are accessible to individuals with disabilities. It builds upon previous laws requiring accessibility of electronic communication and video programming, including the Communications Act and the Closed Caption Decoder Circuitry Act. It expands upon existing requirements for accessibility of video programming requirements including closed captioning of televised video programming, video description, accessibility of programming providing emergency information and closed captioning requirements for video programming delivered via IP. It also builds upon accessibility requirements for apparatus used in the playback or recording of video programming including requirements for closed caption decoders, video description and emergency accessibility information, interface accessibility requirements for media players and requirements for video programming guide and menus provided on navigation devices. (An in-depth discussion of the accessibility requirements for media player interfaces and video programming guides and menus is available under the CVAA Sections 204 and 205 category of this blog).

Closed captioning

Section 713 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 instated requirements for closed captioning of video programming. The CVAA extends the scope of video programming to include closed captioning of emergency information. It also extended the requirements for closed captioning of video programming to delivery over the Internet. Finally, the FCC also passed rules containing requirements for apparatus for user control over the presentation and display of closed captions.

Video description

The CVAA directed the FCC to pass rules requiring 50 hours per calendar quarter of video description by the top four broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) and the top five non-broadcast networks (TNT, TBS, USA, Nickelodeon and Disney). The requirements for 50 hours per calendar quarter of video description apply to cable and satellite providers and to affiliate stations of one of the four broadcast networks located within one of the top 25 TV market cities. (See the list of top 25 TV markets.) As of July 1, 2015, the requirement extends to the top 60 TV markets and the History Channel will replace Nickelodeon for determining the top five non-broadcast networks as indicated in this FCC Order and Public Notice. While not required by FCC rules, Nedtflix announced on April 14 that it would begin providing video description for Netflix-original shows, demonstrating an increased prevalence of this medium.

Accessibility of Programming Providing Emergency Information

The CVAA directed the FCC to pass rules requiring that emergency information is accessible. The FCC consequently passed rules requiring closed captioning of emergency information delivered via audio and an audio rendering of any emergency information delivered visually. The rules extend to pass-through of any emergency information for apparatus and recording devices.