October 8, 2010 was a great day for the National Court Reporting Association (NCRA) and for millions of people with a hearing loss. The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act was signed to provide millions of Americans who rely on captioning for news, entertainment, information and better access to technology. Technology has drastically changed the way we live. It has given us so many advantages and opportunities that we didn’t have 10 or 20 years ago, and it’s always changing. This new law reflects these changes, and how it can specifically affect those with disabilities in a positive way. President Barack Obama said, “The 21st Century Communications Act will make it easier for people who are deaf or live with a visual impairment to do what many of us take for granted – from navigating a TV or DVD menu to sending an email on a smartphone.” Some of the changes/benefits of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act for those with visual or hearing disabilities include:

  • Fully accessible Web browsers, text messaging and email access on mobile devices, including smartphones
  • Access to emergency broadcast information
  • Audible descriptions of television programs, program guides, menus and on-screen action
  • Mobile phones with Internet capability are required to be compatible with hearing aid devices
  • $10 million funding a year for assistive technology for the deaf and blind
  • Cable companies requirements are expanded to give access to those who with impaired vision

I think this is a wonderful, positive step in providing individuals in America with hearing or vision disabilities with greater access to technology and a greater enjoyment of life. Come on Canada, where’s our Act?