The U.S. government has adopted rules to ensure that advanced communications services (ACS) such as non-interconnected interoperable video conferencing provide services to the disabled.
In addition to interoperable video conferencing, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulation also seeks to ensure that the disabled have access to voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) services and electronic messaging services.
On Dec. 30, 2011, the FCC posted on the Federal Register the final rule—Implementing the Provisions of the Communications Act of 1934, as Enacted by the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010—that becomes effective on Jan. 30, 2012.
The FCC says the regulation is necessary because the commission determined that “the accessibility requirements” of federal law “apply to non-interconnected VoIP services, electronic messaging services, and interoperable video conferencing services.”
Therefore, the FCC is implementing the regulation overseeing companies “that make or produce end user equipment, including tablets, laptops, and smartphones, responsible for the accessibility of the hardware and manufacturer-provided software used for e-mail, SMS text messaging and other ACS,” the document says.
The FCC also holds those companies responsible for software upgrades made available by such manufacturers for download by users, except for software that is independently selected and installed by the user, or that a user chooses for use in the cloud. There are other “waivers” and exceptions listed in the document.
In addition, the final rule also lists general performance objectives that cover ACS equipment and services as well as the devices’ accessibility, compatibility and usability. However, the FCC refrained “from adopting any technical standards as safe harbors for covered entities,” but to facilitate the ability of covered entities to implement accessibility features early in product development cycles, the FCC will “gradually phase in compliance requirements for accessibility, with full compliance required by Oct. 8, 2013,” the agency says.
The FCC is also seeking comment on “implementation of certain provisions” of the rule. The deadline for comments is Feb. 13, 2012.