The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act was passed by Congress to update our nation’s telecommunications protections for people with disabilities. The CVAA follows a string of laws, passed in the 1980s and 1990s that were designed to ensure that telephone and television services would be accessible to all Americans with disabilities. But these laws were not able to keep up with the fast paced technological changes that our society has witnessed over the past decade. The new law contains groundbreaking protections to enable people with disabilities to access broadband, digital and mobile innovations — the emerging 21st century technologies for which the act is named.
There are approximately 36 million Americans with hearing loss and 25 million with a significant vision loss. In 2009, a study conducted by the FCC revealed that people with disabilities are less likely to use Internet-based communications technologies: 65 percent of Americans have broadband at home, but only 42 percent of Americans with disabilities have these services. This gap is due in part to physical barriers that people with disabilities confront in using the Internet. It is for this reason that the National Broadband Plan, adopted by the Commission in March 2010, [...]