COAT affiliate, American Council of the Blind (ACB), held its annual legislative seminar Monday February 22, 2010 in Arlington, Virginia. A key policy item was H.R. 3101, which includes over five provisions that, if enacted, will greatly benefit people with vision disabilities. Eric Bridges, ACB's Director of Advocacy & Government Affairs, summarized the five key provisions at the seminar:
- Access to Emergency Information on TV--current regulations provide only a tone heard when critical disaster or emergency details are being scrolled across the bottom of the TV screen -- HR 3101 would fix this with some audio output;
- Access to wireless devices such as PDAs, cell phones and "smart" Internet-enabled phones -- HR 3101 would lead to audio outputs of all features, functions & applications;
- Reinstatement of the video description rules that were overturned in 2002 -- now that we're in a digital TV environment there's plenty of bandwidth available for a "secondary audio channel" on the most population programs and channels;
- Accessible user interfaces on TV electronics such as TIVO's, DVRs and all home theater devices -- program guides, remote controls and on screen navigation need audio outputs or cheap & easy-to-use assistive technologies;
- Funding set-aside of $10 million so that America's 70,000-100,000 deaf-blind people will have equipment to make a phone call (!) and access the Internet.
Also speaking at this legislative seminar were Mark Bayer, Legislative Director and Deputy Chief of Staff to Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), who introduced H.R. 3101 in June 2009, and Jenifer Simpson, Senior Director of Government Affairs at AAPD. AAPD and ACB are founding and steering committee members of COAT.
Paying their own way to ACB's seminar, about one hundred and ten ACB activists & delegates meet their Senators and Representatives on February 23, 2010. I H.R. 3101 will be among the top policy items ACB members will mention. During their Hill visits, they hope to gain more sponsors for the House bill and to ask their Senators to introduce a companion measure in the U.S. Senate.
COAT salutes ACB for its members' advocacy on HR 3101, the 21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act.