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The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) provides updates to certain sections of the Communications Act which was originally enacted in 1934. The purpose of the CVAA which was signed into law in October of 2010 is to bring updates that ensure modern and advanced forms of communications and video are accessible to people with disabilities.

CVAA’s Section 204 which deals with video programming indicates “digital apparatus designed to receive or play back video programming transmitted in digital format simultaneously with sound, including apparatus designed to receive or display video programming transmitted in digital format using Internet protocol” must have accessible user interfaces.

How is a digital apparatus defined and would it cover web-based media players? Web based media players work of the Internet protocol and while not hardware are a form of digital apparatus for viewing video content. The FCC has not yet made a rule making on this aspect of the CVAA. The CVAA requires this rulemaking proceeding to be completed by October 9, 2013. To assist in this process the Video Programming Accessibility Advisory Committee (VPAAC) released a report in April of this year that makes recommendations on this section for users interfaces and navigation mechanisms. Subsequently the Federal Communications Commission released a public notice on a report from the VPAAC seeking comment on how this aspect of the CVAA will affect the FCC upcoming rulemaking. The comment period closed in June and the FCC is currently evaluating the report and pre-paring the proposed rulemaking.

The VPAAC report does mention web based media players and provides guidance on what functional requirements will be outlined for user interfaces. The FCC is prohibited by the CVAA in creating specific technical requirements. Thus, the set of functional requirements at aimed at providing access by people with disabilities but not limiting innovation or techniques to achieve the desired outcome. Recommendations in the report focus on access to video programming and the user interface by people with visual and heading disabilities.