On July 15 2010, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation adopted “The Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act,” Senate Bill S. 3304. By a unanimous voice vote the bill was moved to the full Senate floor. The Law Office of Lainey Feingold thanks the disability advocates in the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT) whose tireless commitment and endless work got this important legislation to this critical juncture.
While the bill was moved to the full Senate with disappointing industry-backed changes, and the fight is far from over, the eve of the ADA’s 20th anniversary is an appropriate time to thank the organizations and individuals who are working to pass the new legislation. As Senator John Kerry recognized during the Executive Session, “the goals of S. 3304 are consistent with the ADA.” This month the disability community is honoring the advocates and organizations who fought for the passage of the ADA twenty years ago. Twenty years from now, at the 40th anniversary of the ADA, we will hopefully also be celebrating twenty years of enhanced telecommunications access, thanks to the work of COAT advocates in 2010.
Twenty First Century Communications Act
The 21st Century Communications Act is a much-needed piece of legislation designed to bring, as the title suggests, communication access into the twenty first century. As explained in Coat’s one page summary of the Act:
this comprehensive disabilities communications legislation will amend the nation’s Communications Act to ensure that new Internet-enabled telephone and television products and services are accessible to and usable by people with disabilities. It will also close existing disability gaps in telecommunications law. — Website of the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology
Among the issues addressed in the bill are internet captioning, video description on television, access to television on-screen controls and information, hearing aid-compatible phones, full use broadband services and equipment, and better access to video programming devices such as remote controls. Read a full description of the bill’s provisions.
- COAT is comprised of over 300 organizations, with core leadership coming from the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), and the American Council of the Blind (ACB). Leaders from these groups, including Jenifer Simpson, Rosaline Crawford, Mark Richert, Paul Schroeder, and Eric Bridges and others, have worked non-stop since the Coalition’s founding in 2007 to push the agenda of equal access to telecommunications. COAT also benefited greatly from the leadership of Karen Peltz Strauss (CSD), a renowned telecommunications accessibility advocate, who joined the Federal Communications Commission in March 2010. The COAT website contains a wealth of resources on the Twenty First Century Telecommunications Act and other efforts to ensure that people with disabilities have access to communications and video technologies. Visit the COAT website.
- Read other posts on LFLegal on the COAT bill: August 8, 2010 post
- Read the Coat summary of the Act’s markup on July 15, 2010.
- Read COAT’s one-page summary of the bill