by Andrew Kirkpatrick
Today I am thrilled to attend an event at the White House where President Obama signs into law the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. This act includes a number of provisions intended to increase access to video programming on television and the internet, require as access to the user interfaces used to access information online via smart phones, and require access to on-screen menus for DVD players and set-top boxes.
Specifically, the bill establishes that:
- Within one year of passage of the Act that the FCC will define regulations to make Advanced Communications Services accessible to and usable by people with disabilities (Section 716)
- Effective three years after passage of the Act, internet browsers built into mobile phones will need to support accessibility in the browser’s features and functions (Section 718)
- Within 60 days the FCC will establish a committee to advise on video programming and emergency access, and that group will develop reports (Section 201)
- a report within 6 months which includes deadlines for the delivery of closed captioning services
- a report within 18 months recommending the schedule for the delivery of video description
- Within 6 months, the FCC will set a schedule for requiring closed captions on video displayed online, for video that was delivered with captions on broadcast television. (Section 202)
- The FCC will commence an evaluation within one year of the passage of the Act to investigate the technical challenges, benefits, and technical challenges around video description for online video. (Section 202)
- The FCC will define regulations within 18-36 months which require access to the controls that accompany video programming (e.g. play, pause, closed captioning, volume controls) to enable access for people who are blind or visually impaired. (section 204)
- The FCC will define regulations within 18-36 months which require on-screen menus and program guides to be accessible to people who are blind or low-vision. (Section 205)
Adobe supports the provisions of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act as great advances to ensure equal access for people with disabilities. The most immediate impact of this legislation on developers using Adobe tools will be the delivery of closed captions for video online, followed by the provision of accessible controls for video and video description to aid comprehension of content by users who are blind or visually-impaired. Adobe tools already provide direct support for some of these requirements:
- Adobe introduced support for closed captioning in Flash video and provided a closed captioning component in Flash CS3 in April 2007, and has continued to improve and provide this in Flash CS4 and CS5. This component greatly simplifies the process of adding captions to video in FLV or H.264 formats.
- Adobe provides video controls in the FLVPlayback component, initially delivered in October 2008, which are accessible by default for assistive technology users. Offering controls that keyboard or assistive technology users can use is easily accomplished with Flash CS4 and CS5.
- For the past few years, video providers including MTV, Hulu, CNET, YouTube, and others have used Flash to display video with closed captioning, taking advantage of features in the Flash Player to accomplish this.
Despite the support that exists currently, there is more to do to make supporting this Act easier. Possible areas of work for Adobe include simplifying the process for content providers to transcode Line 21 or 608/708 captions to TTML or another format for display online, expanding support in the Flash Player to support upcoming accessibility APIs for mobile devices, and providing additional templates for accessible video player control sets to offer authors a greater selection of ready-to-use and accessible interfaces.
Congratulations to all who pushed to make this Act a reality, we look forward to working together to define the next steps as defined in the bill and working to continue to improve Adobe solutions for authors and content providers who need to deliver high-quality access for end users.