Rep. Markey Introduces 21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act of 2009

Before Congress adjourned on June 26, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced the "21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009" (H.R. 3101). This comprehensive measure would modernize disability accessibility mandates in the Communications Act, bringing existing requirements up to date as TV and phone services connect via the Internet and use new digital and broadband technologies. COAT leaders said the following:

"The time is now to safeguard an accessible communications future," said Jenifer Simpson of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). "We commend Rep. Markey for his leadership and look now to the U.S. Senate for a similar leader!"

Karen Peltz Strauss of Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD) said, "H.R. 3101 puts people with disabilities squarely into 21st century broadband communications so we can take full advantage of Internet advancements enjoyed by everyone else."

"Digital technologies make it possible for TVs and other video devices -- of virtually any size -- to receive, transmit and display TV programs and video clips with captioning," said Rosaline Crawford of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). "Captioning is needed for video material shown on the Internet for the same reason captioning is needed on TV."

Mark Richert, of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) stated," We are fed up with playing catch up whenever new technologies are released. People with vision loss will finally have access to everything from text messaging, watching TV and receiving emergency infromation, if this bill is enacted."

Added Eric Bridges of the American Council of the Blind: "Video description and accessible user interfaces on TV devices are essential for us. We've waited a long time for this." 

Thank Rep. Ed Markey today via Email Form for introducing the bill.

Contact your Representative today to ask him or her to co-sponsor H.R. 3101!  See sample letter in the Comments, below.

Contact both your Senators today to ask them to introduce a similar Senate bill!

Write your comment about this legislation in the "Add Comment" section below. Your thoughts are very welcome!


Walter B. McCormick, Jr.,

Walter B. McCormick, Jr., USTelecom President & CEO,made the following statement on 6/26 about H.R. 3101:

"Representative Markey is a recognized leader in Congress in ensuring those in the disabled community have access to communications technologies. Since 2008, Rep. Markey has worked with a diverse group of stakeholders, including USTelecom, its member companies and the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT) in an effort to update the nation's laws to reflect the shift in communications to IP-based technologies. The result of those efforts is the bill introduced today. We look forward to working with Rep. Markey and COAT towards its enactment."

This afternoon, President

This afternoon President Obama spoke. While he didn't mention the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, people are working hard to implement this new law. This is a good thing and supported by many. As web video continues to grow, the push for expanded regulation will likely grow louder.  While the benefits of transcripts and captions are significant, regulation of such applications is a delicate but necessary matter. 

there is no doubt that

there is no doubt that technology develops rapidly; it's unfortunate that usually disability accessibility or applications are thought of afterwards instead of upfront. Some legislation attempts to be prospective with technology, but typically accessibility is a catch-up thing unless designers and developers think of ALL users at the outset.

This is very much a work in

This is very much a work in progress as technology is always changing and yet we want it to be accessible when we buy it at the store, or online or wherever. Thanks for sharing the informative post.

Peter Davidson, Verizon Sr

Peter Davidson, Verizon Sr VP of Govt Relations said: "..We applaud Chairman Markey for recognizing the essential role communications technology plays in the lives of those with disabilities. In the months leading up to the introduction of the bill, Chairman Markey brought diverse groups to the table and kept the focus on ensuring that those with disabilities have access to emerging communications technology.
Verizon has long used its technology to improve the quality of life for
those with disabilities, and we will continue to support Chairman Markey's
efforts to pass meaningful legislation to further that same goal."

SOURCE Verizon

With all this talk about

With all this talk about broadband, take the speed test to see how fast your Internet connection is at the Speed Matters website  sponsored by the Communication Workers of America (CWA). COAT affiliate AAPD has partnered with CWA to work on more affordable broadband. As you know,  broadband, unlike dial-up Internet, allows for many more applications that can be made more accessible. See AAPD one pager on this!

A new action blog  has been

A new action blog  has been started by Jamie Berke called Caption Action2 that focuses on the 21st Century bill. Visit it today and see what others are saying and doing! Jamie's website includes a widget with a countdown clock by which we surely must get this legislation passed!

I signed the petition and

I signed the petition and forwarded it to several people. This is a very important issue. One hurdle here is that one of the "consumer advocacy" organizations for the blind here in the USA has for many years opposed video description. Shocking as this is, it's true. This organization clearly does not speak for all of us as they claim to do. I urge anyone and everyone who opposes audio/video description to get real and take a long, hard look at reality. The truth of the matter is that this service is needed by those of us who cannot see the screen. If people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing have closed captioning, there's absolutely no reason why audio and video description should be unavailable.

Rather than oppose video

Rather than oppose video description, we understand that some people place a higher priority on access to televised emergency information over video description.  That is understandable.  H.R. 3101 would require both.  When emergency information scrolls across the TV screen, a tone alerts people who are blind to the presence of that information, but does not provide access to that information.  H.R. 3101 calls for that emergency information to be provided in an accessible audio format (text-to-speech output).

In addition to the Caption

In addition to the Caption Action 2 blog that Jenifer mentioned further below, we also have a Facebook cause, Caption Action 2, at Support COAT, AND join Caption Action 2 on Facebook. COAT and its member organizations are the professional face of this battle to get this bill through Congress; Caption Action 2 is the grassroots effort to get this bill through Congress.

Three cheers for Rep.

Three cheers for Rep. Markey! I do wish that an amendment to this bill or a new bill altogether would address the lack of availability of captioned/descriptive materials in education. There should be a federal law that all educational video be open captioned (so teachers CAN'T leave it off) and also available in descriptive video format. Poor readers, English Language Learners, the kid in the back who can't hear over distance and noise, any kid when a new word is used and it also appears in print - as well as deaf and hard of hearing students - would benefit from captions. Lack of captions is an unfair barrier for D/HH students in regular education classrooms, and D/HH schools and programs have difficulty finding captioned video materials aligned with state curriculum guidelines, standards and benchmarks. If producers of these materials are required to build in open captions and know these from the outset, the interference of the caption with the visual material would also be reduced.

Rosaline Crawford Director,

Rosaline Crawford Director, Law and Advocacy Center National Association of the Deaf

Dorothea -- You make excellent points!  It is amazing that, after decades of law requiring accessible education, producers of educational audiovisual material do not caption or describe their products routinely.  Services like the NAD Described and Captioned Media Program are still very much needed to fill this continuing gap.  School districts and other educational institutions have tremendous power that could be harnassed and wielded by including contracting provisions that require purchased educational audiovisual material to be captioned and described.  Maybe it is time to consider adding universal design provisions in the ADA for products used by ADA entities.

It is quite a sad affair if

It is quite a sad affair if schools continue to use media with no captions and subtitles. I grew up as mainstreamed deaf in 60's-70's and there was absolute no captions/subtitles...subtitles sometimes if it was a foreign film with English subtitles... it left me out then in a time where disability rights were a lower priority then rights for minorities/ that Civil Rights era where disabled were the forgotten discriminated. For Schools to STILL be using media from company's that STILL do NOT subtitle/caption is an outrage. it also is a misuse of Tax monies...monies that should NOT go to schools that use such for such media...I would think some states laws and the ADA should require schools to ONLY buy media that has caption/subtitles for use in classes... Especially any Federal monies... or LOSS at the Least Federal funding! Id Schools demanded and only bought such the providers WOULD fast caption/subtitle or ...good riddance...go out of business.

Is it possible to post a

Is it possible to post a template letter for representatives and senators to cut and paste? It will make it much easier for us to reach our local representatives and save us time to figure out what to write and more people would be willing to contact. Thanks.

Sample Letter:   Ensure

Sample Letter:


Ensure Equal Access to the New Technologies and Innovations of the 21st Century for People with Disabilities


Please Co-Sponsor H.R. 3101,

the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009


[Today’s date]


Dear Representative [Last Name]:


I am a person with a disability and I want to be a part of the revolution in the way Americans interact, learn and conduct business using the new digital communications devices, television and the Internet. However, the wizardry of the wires and the sophistication of software programs often do little for those of us who need accessibility due to vision, hearing or other disabilities. Recently, the Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009 (H.R. 3101), was introduced. This legislation would ensure that all Americans have equal access to these exciting and innovative new technologies. It would enable me to [insert some personal details about how you would benefit].


H.R. 3101 would amend the Communications Act to ensure that new Internet-enabled telephone and video services and equipment are accessible to, and usable by, people with disabilities.   From extending hearing aid compatibility and Internet closed captioning to real-time text support for emergency services, H.R. 3101 seeks to provide a smooth migration to the next-generation of Internet-based and digital communication technologies. For more information, see a one-page summary at and a section-by-section summary at


Please co-sponsor this bill so I can access and use phones and television like everyone else.









- There may be some

- There may be some different kind or type of communication used in a few years. For example, holography. Technology evolves at such a fast speed that some of the contents of this bill could be obsolete in a few years. Is it possible to add specifications in the bill that would be "forward-compatible"?

HR3101 is an excellent

HR3101 is an excellent start, but may I ask that we consider captioning for broadcast radio as well? National Public Radio Labs has demonstrated this by broadcasting real-time captioning of NPR's Election Night broadcast, November 4, 2008, which sent captioning to five NPR stations around the country. The hearing-impaired guests at NPR and at the stations had a chance to see Radio Captioning, first hand. NPRLabs is now working to bring Radio Captioning to the mainstream.

i just finished email the

i just finished email the president there are four of us who live close and are all deaf we really need dsl here and have not gotten a positive response from att we explained we needed dsl here for a couple of good reasons one is a 911 address connected to dsl so in an emergency they already have our address and we do not have to depend on a hearing person to give them directions it is also better for us to communicate with video cameras but the hughes net satellite is not strong enough signal to do this dsl is  att has not been helpful so we are hoping through the president we will gain some hope my wife died last year and i stood by holding my new baby watching my mom try to give directions to 911 and hurry to start cpr and it was so frustrating beyond anything you can imagine and i live in fear what if something happened again and she was not home how much a time delay there is in using relay so you can see i need dsl for the 911 address system is there anyway you can help thank you skyler perkins 

After reading the bill, I

After reading the bill, I wonder about the following issues: - There is an increasing number of videos and podcasts on websites that have no captions and transcripts. However, I don't see any specifications about this in the bill. For example, there are guidelines that videos are to have both built-in captions and transcripts - that way users can choose if they want to skim transcripts or spend the whole hour following a captioned video. Unless transcripts can be automatically displayed both as built-in captions and page contents. Can this be added? - There may be some different kind or type of communication used in a few years. For example, holography. Technology evolves at such a fast speed that some of the contents of this bill could be obsolete in a few years. Is it possible to add specifications in the bill that would be "forward-compatible"? Thanks.

H.R. 3101 is aimed at

H.R. 3101 is aimed at getting captions on video programming . . . primarily television and television-like video programming on the Internet.  Are you suggesting that transcripts be provided for television programs on the Internet, in addition to captions?

H.R. 3101 includes language to and should apply to Internet and "successor" protocols.

HR3101 is an excellent

HR3101 is an excellent start, but may I ask that we consider captioning for broadcast radio as well? National Public Radio Labs has demonstrated this by broadcasting real-time captioning of NPR's Election Night broadcast, November 4, 2008, which sent captioning to five NPR stations around the country.