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CVAA Public Notice on the Accessibility of Communications Technologies

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Released: July 12, 2012

PUBLIC NOTICE

Federal Communications Commission

News Media Information 202 / 418-0500

445 12th Street, S.W.

Internet: http://www.fcc.gov

Washington, D.C. 20554

TTY: 1-888-835-5322

DA 12-1125

Released: July 12, 2012

CONSUMER AND GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS BUREAU SEEKS COMMENT ON THE

ACCESSIBILITY OF COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGIES FOR THE

FIRST BIENNIAL REPORT UNDER THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY COMMUNICATIONS

AND VIDEO ACCESSIBILITY ACT

Pleading Cycle Established

CG Docket No. 10-213

Comment Date: July 25, 2012

I.

Introduction

1.
By this Public Notice (Notice) and consistent with the requirements of the Twenty-First
Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA),1 the Consumer and
Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission)
hereby seeks comment from the public to inform the Commission’s preparation of the biennial report
required by the CVAA, to be submitted to Congress by October 8, 2012.2 Public comment will assist the
Commission in assessing the level of compliance with congressional mandates that telecommunications
and advanced communications services and equipment be accessible to and usable by individuals with
disabilities, the effect of related recordkeeping and enforcement requirements, and the extent to which
accessibility barriers still exist with respect to new communications technologies. The Commission will
seek public comment on its tentative findings on these matters before it submits its biennial report to
Congress.3

II.

Background

2.
The CVAA requires the Commission to take various steps to ensure that people with
disabilities have access to emerging communications technologies in the 21st Century. The CVAA also
requires the Commission to submit a report to Congress every two years on the level of compliance with
the CVAA’s communications accessibility obligations, the extent to which accessibility barriers still exist
to new communications technologies, and related matters.4 The first of these biennial reports is due to
Congress by October 8, 2012, two years after the CVAA was enacted. In this Notice, we seek comment


1 Pub. L. No. 111-260, 124 Stat. 2751 (2010) (as codified in various sections of 47 U.S.C.); Pub. L. 111-265, 124
Stat. 2795 (2010) (making technical corrections to the CVAA).
2 See Section 717(b)(1) of the Communications Act, as added by the CVAA, codified at 47 U.S.C. § 618(b)(1).
3 See 47 U.S.C. § 618(b)(2).
4 Id.

on a range of issues to inform the Commission’s preparation of this biennial report.5 As required by the
CVAA, the Commission also will seek comment on the tentative findings contained in this report before
its submission to Congress.6
3.
Among other things, the CVAA requires the Commission’s biennial report to contain:
·
An assessment of the level of compliance with Sections 255, 716, and 718 of the
Communications Act (Act);
·
An evaluation of the extent to which any accessibility barriers still exist with respect to
new communications technologies; and
·
An assessment of the effect of the requirements of Section 717 of the Act on the
development and deployment of new communications technologies.7
4.
Pursuant to Section 255 of the Act and the Commission’s implementing rules and
requirements, telecommunications and interconnected voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) service
providers and equipment manufacturers are required to make their services and equipment accessible to
and usable by individuals with disabilities, if readily achievable (defined as “easily accomplishable and
able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense”).8 The Commission has defined services
covered under Section 255 to include local and long distance telephone service, call waiting, speed


5 In this Notice, as noted below, we seek comment only on those report-related issues that can be best informed by
public input. For example, the CVAA requires the Commission to include information on the number and nature of
complaints received by the Commission alleging violations of Sections 255, 716, and 718 of the Communications
Act, a description of the actions taken to resolve such complaints, the length of time taken to resolve each complaint,
and the extent to which any appeals or writs of mandamus have been filed in response to Commission actions to
resolve those complaints. See 47 U.S.C. §§ 618(b)(1)(C)-(F). This information is already is in the possession of the
Commission and, therefore, is not the subject of this Notice.
6 See 47 U.S.C. § 618(b)(2).
7 See 47 U.S.C. §§ 618(b)(1)(A), (B), and (G).
8 See 47 U.S.C. § 255 (referencing 42 U.S.C. §12181(9)); see also 47 C.F.R. Part 6 and Part 7. When accessibility is
not readily achievable, covered entities must ensure that their services and equipment are compatible with existing
peripheral devices or specialized equipment commonly used by individuals with disabilities to achieve access, if
readily achievable. Id. In 2007, the Commission extended the Section 255 accessibility obligations to
interconnected VoIP service providers and equipment manufacturers. See Implementation of Sections 255 and
251(a)(2) of the Communications Act of 1934, as Enacted by the Telecommunications Act of 1996: Access to
Telecommunications Service, Telecommunications Equipment and Customer Premises Equipment by Persons with
Disabilities; Telecommunications Relay Services and Speech-to-Speech Services for Individuals with Hearing and
Speech Disabilities
, Report and Order, 22 FCC Rcd 11275 (2007). The Act defines “telecommunications” as the
transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user’s choosing, without change
in the form or content of the information as sent and received.” 47 U.S.C. § 153(50). It defines
“telecommunications service” as “the offering of telecommunications for a fee directly to the public, or to such
classes of users as to be effectively available directly to the public, regardless of the facilities used.” 47 U.S.C. §
153(53). The Act also defines “interconnected VoIP service” as such term is defined in section 9.3 of the
Commission’s rules, as such section may be amended from time to time. 47 U.S.C. § 153(25); 47 C.F.R. § 9.3.
Section 9.3, in turn, defines interconnected VoIP as a service that (1) enables real-time, two-way voice
communications; (2) requires a broadband connection from the user’s location; (3) requires Internet protocol-
compatible customer premises equipment; and (4) permits users generally to receive calls that originate on the
public switched telephone network (PSTN) and to terminate calls to the PSTN. 47 C.F.R. § 9.3. In other words,
interconnected VoIP services enable people to make calls to and receive calls from users of traditional telephone
service.
2

dialing, call forwarding, computer-provided directory assistance, call monitoring, caller identification,
call tracing, and repeat dialing.9 Equipment covered under Section 255 includes, but is not limited to,
customer premises equipment, such as wireline, cordless, and wireless telephones, fax machines, and
answering machines.10 In addition, the Commission’s Section 255 rules cover voice mail and interactive
voice response systems (phone systems that provide callers with menus of choices).11

5.
Section 716 of the Act requires advanced communications service providers and
equipment manufacturers to make their services and equipment accessible to and usable by individuals
with disabilities, if achievable.12 These requirements apply to providers of non-interconnected VoIP
services, electronic messaging services, and interoperable video conferencing services, and to
manufacturers of equipment used for these services.13 Section 718 of the Act requires Internet browsers
built into mobile phones to be accessible to and usable by individuals who are blind or visually impaired,


9 See Implementation of Sections 255 and 251(a)(2) of the Communications Act of 1934, as Enacted by the
Telecommunications Act of 1996: Access to Telecommunications Service, Telecommunications Equipment and
Customer Premises Equipment by Persons with Disabilities
, Report and Order and Further Notice of Inquiry, 16
FCC Rcd 6417, 6449, ¶ 77 (1999) (Section 255 Order). See also 47 C.F.R. Part 6.
10 The Communications Act defines telecommunications equipment as “equipment, other than customer premises
equipment, used by a carrier to provide telecommunications services, and includes software integral to such
equipment (including upgrades).” 47 U.S.C. § 153(52). It defines “customer premises equipment” as “equipment
employed on the premises of a person (other than a carrier) to originate, route or terminate telecommunications.” 47
U.S.C. § 153(16).
11 Section 255 Order, 16 FCC Rcd 6417, 6455-6462, ¶¶ 93-108; 47 C.F.R. Part 7.
12 See 47 U.S.C. § 617. The new section defines “achievable” to mean with reasonable effort or expense, listing four
factors the Commission must consider when making such determinations. 47 U.S.C. § 617(g). See also 47 U.S.C.
§153(1) (defining “advanced communications services” as “(A) interconnected VoIP service; (B) non-
interconnected VoIP service; (C) electronic messaging service; and (D) interoperable video conferencing service”).
Although the Act’s definition of “advanced communications services” also includes interconnected VoIP service,
the accessibility obligations of interconnected VoIP service providers and equipment manufacturers are governed by
the requirements of Section 255 of the Act. See 47 U.S.C. §§ 255 and 617(f). See also n.8, supra.
13 See 47 U.S.C. §§ 617(a), (b), and (g). In contrast to interconnected VoIP services that enable people to make and
receive calls over the Internet and the telephone system, non-interconnected VoIP services include services that
enable people to make or receive calls over the Internet or enable real-time voice communications solely over the
Internet. See 47 U.S.C. § 153(36). Electronic messaging services enable real-time or near real-time text messages
between individuals over communications networks. See 47 U.S.C. § 153(19). Examples of electronic messaging
services include e-mail, SMS text messaging, and instant messaging. See Implementation of Sections 716 and 717
of the Communications Act of 1934, as Enacted by the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video
Accessibility Act of 2010; Amendments to the Commission’s Rules Implementing Sections 255 and 251(a)(2) of the
Communications Act of 1934, as Enacted by the Telecommunications Act of 1996; and In the Matter of Accessible
Mobile Phone Options for People who are Blind, Deaf-Blind, or Have Low Vision
, CG Docket Nos. 10-213 and 10-
145, WT Docket No. 96-198, Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, FCC 11-151, 26 FCC
Rcd 14557, 14574, ¶ 43 (2011) (ACS Report and Order and ACS FNPRM) available at
http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-11-151A1.pdf. Interoperable video conferencing services
are real-time video communications, including audio, to enable users to share information. See 47 U.S.C. § 153(27).
The Commission is considering the definition of “interoperable” as it applies in the context of “interoperable video
conferencing services” as part of its ongoing advanced communications rulemaking proceeding. See ACS Report
and Order and ACS FNPRM
26 FCC Rcd 14684-14687, ¶¶ 301-305. See also 47 C.F.R. Part 14.
3

if achievable.14 Section 717 of the Act added new recordkeeping and enforcement obligations for entities
covered by the accessibility obligations contained in Sections 255, 716, and 718 of the Act.15
6.
In October 2011, the Commission adopted rules to implement the new accessibility
mandates of Section 716 and the recordkeeping and enforcement provisions of Section 717.16 The
Commission also proposed rules for the implementation of Section 718.17 Full compliance with the rules
implementing Sections 716 and 717 is not required until October 8, 2013, but covered entities must begin
taking accessibility into account in the design of their products and services beginning January 30, 2012,18
and begin filing with the Commission certifications that they have kept records pertaining to the
accessibility of their products beginning on January 30, 2013.19 In addition, once they are put into effect
in October 2013, the new rules require the Commission, within 180 days of the filing of an informal
complaint, to investigate the allegations in the complaint and issue an order concluding the investigation,
unless the complaint is resolved before that time.20 Accordingly, this first biennial report will not be able
to evaluate compliance with these sections as fully effective. Nonetheless, it will consider the extent to
which initial industry efforts to comply with Section 716, as well as to maintain records on such efforts in
preparation for responses to complaints, have begun having an impact, if any, on compliance with
Sections 255 and 716. It will also consider accessibility barriers pertaining to these sections that still
exist, and the development and deployment of new communications technologies that are accessible to
people with disabilities. This initial biennial report will not assess the accessibility of Internet browsers
required on mobile devices under Section 718 of the Act, however, because under the CVAA, that section
is not set to go into effect until October 8, 2013,21 and the Commission has not yet issued final rules
implementing that provision.

III.

Comment Sought on Industry Compliance with Section 255 and Section 716

7.
We seek comment on the level of compliance with the obligations of Section 255 and the
Commission’s implementing rules and requirements to make telecommunications and interconnected
VoIP services and equipment used with these services accessible by people with disabilities since the
enactment of the CVAA on October 8, 2010. Specifically, we seek input on the state of accessibility of
services and equipment used with the following: (1) “non-mobile” services, including, but not limited to
analog and digital telephone handsets and cordless phones used with landline and interconnected VoIP


14 See 47 U.S.C. § 619.
15 See 47 U.S.C. § 618.
16 See, generally, ACS Report and Order and ACS FNPRM, 26 FCC Rcd 14557.
17 Id.
18 The rules adopted by the Commission to implement Sections 716 and 717 of the Act became effective January 30,
2012, 30 days after publication in the Federal Register on December 30, 2011. See ACS Report and Order and ACS
FNPRM,
26 FCC Rcd 14696, ¶ 328. See also 76 Fed. Reg. 82240 (Dec. 30, 2011).
19 Specifically, covered entities must keep records of information about their efforts to consult with people with
disabilities, descriptions of the accessibility features of their products and services, and information about the
compatibility of these products and services with peripheral devices or specialized customer premises equipment
commonly used by people with disabilities to achieve access. See 47 U.S.C. § 618(a)(5)(A). These recordkeeping
requirements begin January 30, 2013, one year after January 30, 2012, the effective date of the regulations. Id.
20 See 47 U.S.C. § 618(a)(3)(B).
21 See CVAA, Pub. L. No. 111-260, § 104(b).
4

services; and (2) “mobile” or wireless services, including basic phones and smart phones.22 For guidance
on determining the state of accessibility, we direct commenters to the definition of “accessible” that
governs the Commission’s Section 255 obligations, contained in Parts 6 and 7 of our rules.23 For
example, to what extent do the input and output controls of these telecommunications and interconnected
VoIP services and devices used with these services offer redundant capabilities, so that people without
hearing, vision, or speech, or with limited manual dexterity, cognitive skills, or other abilities can operate
them. To the extent that accessible services and devices are available, how easy is it to locate these
services and devices in mainstream retail establishments? To what extent are services and devices offered
with a range of low-end and high-end features, functions, and prices available to the general public also
accessible to individuals with disabilities? Where services and devices are not accessible, to what extent
are service providers and manufacturers making these compatible with peripheral devices and specialized
customer premises equipment commonly used by people with disabilities to achieve access?24 To what
extent are telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment passing through non-
proprietary, industry-standard codes, translation protocols, formats and other information needed to
provide telecommunications in an accessible format?25 To what extent are signal compression
technologies removing information needed for access?26 Generally, to what extent do barriers still exist
with respect to products and services covered under Section 255 of the Act?
8.
To what extent are telecommunications and interconnected VoIP service providers and
equipment manufacturers ensuring access to information and documentation – including user guides,
bills, installation guides, and product support communications – to people with disabilities?27 For
example, are companies providing information in Braille and other alternate formats? To what extent are
companies providing training on the accessibility of their products and services to customer service
representatives, technical support personnel and others having direct contact with the public? Are
manufacturers and service providers including people with disabilities in their market research, product
design, testing, pilot demonstrations, and product trials?28 To what extent are covered entities working
cooperatively with disability-related organizations in their efforts to incorporate accessibility, usability,
and compatibility of equipment and services throughout their processes for product design, development,
and fabrication?29 Are covered entities making reasonable efforts to validate unproven access solutions
through testing with people with disabilities or with organizations that have expertise with people with
disabilities?30 Finally, we seek comment on any other issues relevant to assessing the level of compliance
with Section 255 and the Commission’s implementing rules, as these pertain to the accessibility and
usability of telecommunications and interconnected VoIP services and equipment.


22 We seek comment on the full range of mobile phones and other wireless devices that are used for
telecommunications or interconnected VoIP services, including basic mobile phones used primarily or exclusively
for voice calls, as well as high-end wireless devices that are used for voice, text, data and other computing
capabilities.
23 See 47 C.F.R. §§ 6.3(a); 7.3(a).
24 See 47 C.F.R. §§ 6.3(b); 7.3(b).
25 See 47 C.F.R. §§ 6.9; 7.9.
26 Id.
27 See 47 C.F.R. §§ 6.11; 7.11.
28 See 47 C.F.R. §§ 6.7(1), (2); 7.7 (1), (2).
29 See 47 C.F.R. §§ 6.7(b)(3); 7.7(b)(3).
30 See 47 C.F.R. §§ 6.7(b)(4); 7.7(b)(4).
5

9.
As noted above, Section 716 of the Act requires advanced communications service
providers and manufacturers to begin taking accessibility into account in the design of their products and
services beginning January 30, 2012.31 To what extent, if any, has this obligation begun to have an
impact on the accessibility of non-interconnected VoIP, electronic messaging, and interoperable video
conferencing services and the devices used to access these services? Have companies established
accessibility-related units or divisions within their organizational structures as a result of the new
requirements in Section 716? In those instances where companies already had organizational divisions
devoted to accessible design and review prior to enactment of the CVAA, have such companies expanded
these divisions in response to the CVAA’s passage? Have companies begun to consider accessibility
earlier in their design processes than before enactment of the CVAA? We seek comment on any other
ways in which Section 716 has had an impact on the accessibility of advanced communications services
and equipment to date.

IV.

Effect of Accessibility Recordkeeping, Complaint, and Enforcement Requirements

10.
As noted above, the CVAA requires the Commission to include in its biennial report an
assessment of the effect of the accessibility recordkeeping requirements on the development and
deployment of new communications technologies.32 Entities required to provide accessible advanced
communications services and equipment under the CVAA must certify annually to the Commission that
they have kept records pertaining to the accessibility of their products beginning January 30, 2013.33
11.
Since the enactment of the CVAA on October 8, 2010, have service providers and
equipment manufacturers taken measures that will result in increased accessibility for people with
disabilities in anticipation of the new recordkeeping and enforcement requirements? If so, to what extent
have these companies developed best practices that can be shared with other covered entities? Since the
accessibility rules for advanced communications became effective in January 2012, to what extent and
how have industry accessibility considerations (undertaken during the design and development of services
and equipment) increased the accessibility of emerging new communications technologies? Are there
templates for recordkeeping that companies are willing to make public for the use of others? We seek
comment on recommendations by companies that have already initiated compliance with their
recordkeeping obligations for how best these obligations can be fulfilled. Has keeping accessibility-
related records served to raise awareness within companies? To what extent has this obligation, as well as
the enforcement procedures set to take effect in October 2013,34 increased collaboration among industry,
consumers with disabilities, and other stakeholders? We seek comment on any other ways in which the
accessibility recordkeeping requirements have had an effect on the development and deployment of new
communications technologies.

V.

Accessibility Barriers to New Communications Technologies

12.
The CVAA requires the Commission to include, in its biennial report, an evaluation of
the extent to which any accessibility barriers still exist with respect to new communications


31 See ¶ 6, supra.
32 See ¶ 3, supra. See also 47 U.S.C. § 618(b)(1)(G).
33 See 47 U.S.C. § 618(a)(5)(B). .
34 See ¶ 6, supra.
6

technologies.35 We note that the CVAA leaves open the definition of “new communications
technologies” in this section, suggesting that the scope of this inquiry may be broader than an inquiry into
the barriers that exist with respect to “telecommunications” and “advanced communications services”
technologies covered under Section 255 and Section 716. We seek comment on the extent to which, in
the preparation of this report, the Commission should be evaluating the accessibility of communications
technologies that fall outside these two categories. To what extent have new communications services,
hardware, software, applications, or plug-ins been deployed to the general public since enactment of the
CVAA on October 8, 2010? What accessibility barriers still exist with respect to these new
communications technologies? Will these accessibility barriers be addressed by the advanced
communications obligations under Section 716 or the mobile phone Internet browser accessibility
obligations under section 718 required as of October 8, 2013?36 We seek comment on any other issues
relevant to evaluating the extent to which accessibility barriers to new communications technologies still
exist.

VI.

Procedural Matters

13.
Ex Parte Rules. The proceeding this Notice initiates shall be treated as a “permit-but-
disclose” proceeding in accordance with the Commission’s ex parte rules.37 Persons making ex parte
presentations must file a copy of any written presentation or a memorandum summarizing any oral
presentation within two business days after the presentation (unless a different deadline applicable to the
Sunshine period applies). Persons making oral ex parte presentations are reminded that memoranda
summarizing the presentation must (1) list all persons attending or otherwise participating in the meeting
at which the ex parte presentation was made, and (2) summarize all data presented and arguments made
during the presentation. If the presentation consisted in whole or in part of the presentation of data or
arguments already reflected in the presenter’s written comments, memoranda or other filings in the
proceeding, the presenter may provide citations to such data or arguments in his or her prior comments,
memoranda, or other filings (specifying the relevant page and/or paragraph numbers where such data or
arguments can be found) in lieu of summarizing them in the memorandum. Documents shown or given
to Commission staff during ex parte meetings are deemed to be written ex parte presentations and must
be filed consistent with rule 1.1206(b). In proceedings governed by rule 1.49(f) or for which the
Commission has made available a method of electronic filing, written ex parte presentations and
memoranda summarizing oral ex parte presentations, and all attachments thereto, must be filed through
the electronic comment filing system available for that proceeding, and must be filed in their native
format (e.g., .doc, .xml, .ppt, searchable .pdf). Participants in this proceeding should familiarize
themselves with the Commission’s ex parte rules.
14.
Filing Requirements. Interested parties may file comments on or before the date
indicated on the first page of this document. Comments may be filed using the Commission’s Electronic
Comment Filing System (ECFS). See Electronic Filing of Documents in Rulemaking Proceedings, 63 FR
24121 (1998). All comments should refer to

CG Docket No. 10-213

. Please title comments responsive
to this Notice as “PN Comments – Accessibility of Communications Technologies.” Further, we strongly
encourage parties to develop responses to this Notice that adhere to the organization and structure of the
questions in this Notice.


35 See 47 U.S.C. § 618(b)(1)(B).
36 See ¶ 6, supra.
37 47 C.F.R. §§ 1.1200 et seq.
7

·
Electronic Filers: Comments may be filed electronically using the Internet by accessing the
ECFS: http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/ecfs2/.
·
Paper Filers: Parties who choose to file by paper must file an original and one copy of each
filing. If more than one docket or rulemaking number appears in the caption of this
proceeding, filers must submit two additional copies for each additional docket or rulemaking
number.
o Filings can be sent by hand or messenger delivery, by commercial overnight courier, or
by first-class or overnight U.S. Postal Service mail. All filings must be addressed to the
Commission’s Secretary, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission.
o All hand-delivered or messenger-delivered paper filings for the Commission’s Secretary
must be delivered to FCC Headquarters at 445 12th St., SW, Room TW-A325,
Washington, DC 20554. The filing hours are 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. All hand deliveries
must be held together with rubber bands or fasteners. Any envelopes and boxes must be
disposed of before entering the building.
o Commercial overnight mail (other than U.S. Postal Service Express Mail and Priority
Mail) must be sent to 9300 East Hampton Drive, Capitol Heights, MD 20743.
o U.S. Postal Service first-class, Express, and Priority mail must be addressed to 445 12th
Street, SW, Washington DC 20554.
15.
People with Disabilities. To request materials in accessible formats for people with
disabilities (braille, large print, electronic files, audio format), send an e-mail to fcc504@fcc.gov or call
the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202- 418-0530 (voice), 202- 418-0432 (TTY).
Individuals with disabilities may request assistance from the Disability Rights Office to file comments in
the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System by sending an e-mail to dro@fcc.gov.
16.
Additional Information. For further information about this Public Notice, please contact
Rosaline Crawford at 202- 418-2075 or by e-mail to Rosaline.Crawford@fcc.gov, Disability Rights
Office, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, Federal Communications Commission.
- FCC -
8

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