May 5, 2010, Washington, DC:--The Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT) thanks Senators Mark Pryor (AR) and John Kerry (MA) for introducing the “Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act” (S. 3304). The measure is a major step forward for people with disabilities in ensuring accessible technology. Also co-sponsoring are Senators Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad, both from North Dakota.
Similar to the “Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act” (H.R. 3101) introduced in the U.S. House, S. 3304 would modernize disability accessibility mandates in the Communications Act, bringing existing requirements up to date as television and phone services connect via the Internet and use new digital and broadband technologies.
Eric Bridges, Director of Advocacy & Government Affairs at the American Council of the Blind (ACB), said, “Much of S. 3304 would lead to greater accessibility for people with disabilities, such as more accessible video programming, including captioning and video description, regardless of distribution mode; and video programming equipment, such as televisions and other display devices, would also be accessible.”
“However, while COAT recognizes that introduction of this Senate bill is a momentous occasion,” said Mark Richert, Director of Public Policy at the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), “the measure does not go as far as H.R. 3101 in reaching all the new technologies.”
“The scope of accessible ‘advanced communications’ is not as broad or as well defined as it is in H.R. 3101,” said Rosaline Crawford, Director of the Law and Advocacy Center at the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). “S. 3304 also establishes a new ‘reasonable effort and expense’ standard for compliance. In contrast, in H.R. 3101, companies would comply with accessibility requirements unless doing so results in an ‘undue burden,’ a well established legal standard in disability law.”
“We stand together as a coalition,” said Jenifer Simpson, Senior Director of Government Affairs at the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD). “We are confident that these issues – scope of accessible communications and the standard for compliance -- will be resolved.”
COAT, a coalition of disability-related organizations launched in March 2007 in response to a rapidly changing communications environment, advocates for legislative and regulatory safeguards that will ensure full access by people with disabilities to evolving high speed broadband, wireless and other Internet protocol (IP) technologies. COAT consists of over 300 national, state, and community-based affiliates dedicated to making sure that, as the nation migrates to more versatile and innovative digital, IP-based and other communication technologies, people with disabilities will benefit like everyone else. More information about COAT is available on this website.
A copy of this press release is attached below.