International policy and legislation

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US communications regulator proposes new access rules


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will hold an open meeting on 3 March to consider Notices of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRMs) on two proposals of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act.

These are:

  • The proposal to require providers of advanced communications services and manufacturers of equipment used for those services to make products accessible for people with disabilities.
  • The proposal to reinstate the FCC’s rules for video description (called audio description in Australia).

The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, a comprehensive set of proposals to make electronic and online media accessible, was signed into law by President Obama on 8 October 2010.

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Audio description on TV in the US

Legislation on audio description on TV in the United States was introduced in 2010, after setbacks to audio description such as the switch from analogue to digital television, and the resistance of the Motion Picture Association to audio description on TV.

In 2010, President Obama signed into law the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 which restores rules set out by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandating audio description on television.

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Ofcom publishes Single Equality Scheme Annual Report

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Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, has published its Single Equality Scheme Annual Report that details the progress of its equality commitments, including action on disability issues.

The Single Equality Scheme is Ofcom’s action plan towards achieving its seven goals for diversity and equality. Some goals are internal, such as aiming to increase the number of people from diverse groups working at Ofcom, including in executive and advisory capacities.

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Canadian disability service providers appalled at government appeal


The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) and the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians (AEBC) have come out with strong statements against the Canadian government’s appeal of a court ruling that federal government websites are to be made accessible to sensory impaired users by 2012.

John Rafferty, President and CEO of CNIB, said, “The fact that it took a court case to plead for full web accessibility in the first place is bad enough, but to learn that the government plans to spend more time and taxpayer money fighting the court’s ruling is just appalling.”

Robin East, President of the nationwide Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, echoed these sentiments, saying, “we are outraged by the government’s decision to appeal this landmark decision”.

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