The U.S. government proposes that certain broadcasting equipment be capable of delivering video descriptions and emergency information to individuals who are blind or visually impaired so those individuals have access to emergency information.
On Nov. 19, 2012, the Federal Communications Commission issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM)—Accessible Emergency Information, and Apparatus Requirements for Emergency Information and Video Description: Implementation of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010—that says the FCC “proposes to make televised emergency information more accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired by requiring the use of a secondary audio stream to provide emergency information aurally that is conveyed visually during programming other than newscasts.”
In addition, the FCC seeks comments under Section 203 of the CVAA “on how to ensure that television apparatus are able to make available video description, as well as to make emergency information accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired.”
The FCC says Section 203 of the CVAA focuses on the availability of secondary audio streams, because that is both the mechanism for providing video description and the commission’s proposed mechanism for making emergency information accessible. The FCC says the “goal” of the proposed rule “is to enable individuals who are blind or visually impaired to access emergency information and video description services more easily,” and the proposed revisions to commission rules will help fulfill the purpose of the CVAA to “update the communications laws to help ensure that individuals with disabilities are able to fully utilize communications services and equipment and better access video programming.”
The NPRM says the FCC must also “promulgate regulations that require video programming providers and video programming distributors and program owners to convey such emergency information in a manner accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired.”
The CVAA directs the commission to prescribe regulations requiring apparatus to have the capability to decode and make available emergency information in a manner that is accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired, and to decode and make available video description services. The deadlines for completing those tasks are:
- April 9, 2013, for the FCC to complete its proceeding on access to emergency information
- Oct. 9, 2013, for the FCC to complete its proceeding on apparatus requirements for video description and emergency information
The NPRM was adopted on Nov. 16, 2012 and issued Nov. 19. But the deadline for comments is to be “20 days after the date of publication [of the NPRM] in the Federal Register,” which has not occurred yet. Therefore, a firm comments deadline has not yet been established.