by Andrew Kirkpatrick

 Comments (16)


October 8, 2010

This post is subject to Adobe's Terms of Use.

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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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
  4. 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)
  5. 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)
  6. 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)
  7. 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.


  • By Giovanni galvez - 6:26 AM on November 11, 2010  

    I may be able to help. Recently I implemented a way to batch convert line 21 and vanc 608/708 into TTML. This can be done from a tape master or digital file format. It’s even possible to do directly from an mpeg2 program stream or transport stream captured from the ATSC air signal.

  • By Steve McDonald - 1:46 PM on February 2, 2011  

    I would also love to help. I wrote a TTML closed captioning tool that significantly reduces the speed of closed captioning video files rendered into the FLV format (an AIR application).

    • By akirkpat - 1:57 PM on February 2, 2011  

      Great! I’d love to see it.

  • By Mike Healey - 11:24 AM on June 29, 2011  

    Has there been progress on this effort? Would be interested to know if there has.

    • By akirkpat - 1:07 PM on June 29, 2011  

      Deadlines coming up. The VPAAC is delivering its report to the FCC on July 13. The FCC will put out advice after that.

  • By elaine rogers - 3:46 PM on October 27, 2011  

    When is deadline for number 4 above?

  • By Barry Mendelsohn - 2:18 PM on May 2, 2013  

    I was viewing a clip of “Small Town Security” ( on Mac OS 10.8.3, Firefox 20.0,, but couldn’t find any way to activate closed captioning. Does that mean cc was not provided for that clip?

    The Firefox>Tools>Add-ons list shows “Shockwave Flash, not Adobe Flash, but the version number is the same as for Adobe Flash. Also, when I right click in the clip’s window the info that pops up includes “About JW Player 3.16” as well as “About Adobe Flash Player 11.7.700.169.”

    • By AWK - 3:00 PM on May 2, 2013  

      I doubt that clip has captions. As of September 30, 2013 it will be required to under the CVAA, but for right now it probably doesn’t because it isn’t yet legally required.

  • By Darryl Niefer - 10:12 AM on August 14, 2013  

    So when will it be officially offering closed caption for all of its player?!??

    • By mattmay - 7:43 PM on August 19, 2013  

      Darryl, if you mean Adobe, all of our players support captioning. The player that comes with Flash Pro has supported it as far back as 2007. Adobe Media Server, which powers a number of broadcast networks’ sites, converts the broadcast captions automatically for online playback. And our Premiere Pro CC video editing software supports them as well. We’ve even supported third-party Flash video players to add captioning support.

      At this point in time, if a piece of content isn’t captioned, it’s not due to a limitation with Flash. Any author can add captions to their content.