The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors has joined with two other groups in urging the U.S. government to require cable operators to carry public, education and government channel programming descriptions on their on-screen menus.
On May 30, the FCC issued the notice of proposed rule making that seeks to require that television-user interfaces, video-programming guides and menus provided by digital apparatus and navigation devices be accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.
In the comments filed by NATO, NAC and the mayors’ conference, the organizations said the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-260) provides the FCC with the legal authority to require cable providers carry program-description information in the PEG channels’ programming guides.
“The plain language of section 205 of the CVAA authorizes the FCC to require audibility of on-screen menus so that the visually impaired can have meaningful access to any array of programming,” the letter said. “However, in order for audible on-screen menus to have functional utility to the visually impaired, the on-screen menu itself should be populated with information that is meaningful and helpful in program selection,” it said.
Currently, many local PEG programs are displayed on the on-screen menu as simply “local government access,” and an audible version of this description would not provide a visually impaired viewer with sufficient information to make a meaningful program selection, according to the letter. That “discourages civic engagement,” the letter adds.
Therefore, “the FCC could and should require that cable distributors display program information as provided by the local PEG station on navigational devices so that when audible on-screen menus become a reality, the visually impaired can more readily access and participate in civic activities,” the letter said.