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The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, better known as the CVAA, is a 2010 law designed to ensure that communications and media services, content, and equipment are accessible to users with disabilities. The CVAA requires that video programming and advanced communications services—such as electronic messaging, video chat, and internet-based voice chat—be provided in an accessible manner to individuals with disabilities.

Like many accessibility laws, CVAA’s focus is on the end user’s ability to access the material, rather than the way in which the material is relayed. This can create some uncertainty for equipment manufacturers and content producers because there are not simple boxes to tick to ensure compliance, but it allows the CVAA to remain relevant as technology evolves.

Unlike other accessibility laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which are at their foundation civil rights laws, the CVAA is structured as a telecommunications law. It builds on and amends existing laws, including the Communications Act of 1934 and the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and uses the existing Federal Communications Commission (FCC) process to enforce its provisions and resolve disputes. Because of this, claims under the CVAA are first heard by the FCC, and may only later be appealed to the federal courts. The CVAA also empowers the FCC to adopt additional regulations to guarantee accessibility.

The CVAA is divided into two titles:

  • Title I, which covers Communication Access, increases the scope of communications services that must be made accessible to users with disabilities; and
  • Title II, which covers Video Programming, requires that video programming, services, and equipment be made accessible to users with disabilities.

Covered organizations may apply for an exemption where compliance with the law is not achievable under a statutory test, though the FCC typically requires substantial evidence before granting an exemption.

Like many telecommunications laws, the CVAA can seem highly technical and Byzantine. Fortunately, Level Access is here to help you and your organization understand and comply with the CVAA’s requirements. We have technical experts on staff who are familiar with the law’s requirements and can help you make your products and services accessible to individuals with disabilities.