21st Century Communication and Video Accessibility Act

No one in my family is Deaf or Blind. So, why should I care that President Obama just signed new legislation forcing media and technology companies to make their products accessible?

Isn’t this just another example of more government rules and regulations? Big Brother intruding into private business? Government ruining all our lives with more paperwork and administrative costs? Government taking away our freedom?

New Laws don’t just drop from the satellites.

I was not involved in the Technology Act. But I have been involved in several other pieces of legislation. And believe me; the process is both tedious and thorough. As it should be!

Before any piece of legislation goes before the Congress and ultimately the President, there is a process. In my opinion, there are usually so many stakeholders and differing opinions it is a miracle anything gets done.

But this is a democracy–government by the people, for the people. So the people of all genders, races, economic groups, political affiliations, and all degrees of ability or disability are involved. Finding consensus on the ideas, then the language, the drafts, the compromises, the redrafts… everything takes forever. This is serious business.

Which makes sense. If we have rules and regulations for a simple baseball game, then certainly any legislative body needs a fair playing field to hear the concerns of its citizens.

I’ve been involved in several legislative committee meetings and public hearings. And down to the stop watches for speeches and comments–every procedural safeguard is specific.

Is there a need? What does the current law say? What have the courts ruled? Is this new law consistent with the constitution? How many people will benefit? What are the costs? What are the downsides? How will this impact business? Is the proposed technology available and possible?

When the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) was passed in 1990, it cited the fourteenth amendment of the constitution and assured people with disabilities the same protections as every other citizen of our country. At first there was tremendous backlash. How dare the government force us to allow people with disabilities into our private businesses? I spoke about some of our family experiences before ADA in my article “America the Beautiful” (click here). I also spoke about the 20 year anniversary of ADA (click here).

This technology act was not necessary.

This technology act would not have been necessary if the people and companies would have voluntarily served the needs of people with disabilities under the letter and spirit of ADA. Imagine over 60 million prospective customers who needed this modified technology–and business ignored them?

They forced these citizens and their families/advocates to have to get a congressional act passed because the companies were too stubborn, or narrow-minded or whatever. It could have been different. It could be different the next time businesses find another loophole and we are forced to seek yet another piece of legislation.

According to the Associated Press (click here)

Nondisabled people stand to benefit, too. They may find the devices and screens easier to use.

The law sets federal guidelines that require the telecommunications industry to:

_Make getting to the Internet easier by improving the user interfaces on smart phones.

_Provide audible descriptions of on-screen action to help the blind more fully enjoy television.

_Add captions to online TV programming to help the deaf.

_Make the equipment used for Internet telephone calls compatible with hearing aids.

_Add a button or other switch to television remote controls for simpler access to closed captioning on television.

Every time I go into a restaurant and see the closed-captioning words scrolling across the screen–I think of ADA. Every time I see a parent push her baby stroller up a curb cut, or see shopping carts going down a ramp, or customers riding an elevator–I think of ADA. Every time I go into a restroom and there is a stall wide enough your knees don’t touch the door–I think of ADA.

The difference between a person having a disability and being handicapped (click here) often is related to the technology and adaptations available.

People with disabilities have helped Velcro come out of the therapy closets, they have helped zippers be sewed into pants, and they have influenced packaging which makes it easier for all of us to open jars and bottles. The artificial replacement arms, legs, hips and other prosthetics were all first designed for wounded soldiers or people with disabilities–now the general population has better lives because of their pioneer efforts.

Who knows where the technology advances from this legislation might lead us? People who are “temporarily-able-bodied” today, might find at some future time, they need a cell phone or TV changer that has the modifications. It will be there because thousands of advocates worked to make it happen.

As our USA population is aging and needing more modifications, accommodations and universal design, we need to thank the hard work of people with disabilities, their families and advocates. As President Obama said, “They refused to accept the world as it is. The Disability Rights Movement is intertwined with American Progress.”

So, yes. This is more government regulation. Thank God and thank the USA.

What do you think? Make a comment.

In the last month we have seen the passage of Rosa’s Law, the Christopher & Dana Reeves Living with Paralysis Law and this Technology Act. Is the government acting on behalf of its vulnerable citizens, or is it over-governing and taking away our freedoms?

Keep Climbing: Onward and Upward.

All the best,

Day 29 of our Chris Brogan’s Every-Day-For-30-Days Blogging Challenge Follow us on Twitter #CB30BC

Alison Golden of The Secret Life of a Warrior Woman is my partner in this challenge: (click here to check out her new post.)