US Action Item: Support House Resolution 3101/Senate Resolution 3304

House Resolution (H.R.) 3101/Senate Resolution (S) 33041, also known as The Twenty First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, just went through committee hearings, nearly a year after being introduced. Referral to committee is the second step that happens after a bill gets introduced; in this case, H.R. 3101 has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce in the House and S 3304 is in the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in the Senate. The committees will report on the outcome of their hearings and if that report is favourable, it will be brought to the floor for a vote. If both houses approve, the bill passes and the President can sign it into law.

This piece of legislature is one that I would really like to see pass.

What is The Twenty First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act?

If you like to view things at the source, you can read the text of the bill here. If you’d rather not, the quick thumbnail is that it’s a bill mandating accessibility for Internet-enabled telecommunications devices. Some highlights from a one page summary provided by the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology:

  • Allocates up to $10 million/year for equipment used by people who are deaf-blind (Currently:  Inadequate state programs that distribute some free or discounted telephone equipment, but little available for people who are deaf-blind)
  • Clarifies the scope of relay services to include calls between and among people with disabilities and requires Internet-based service providers to contribute to the Interstate Relay Fund
  • Extends closed captioning obligations to video programming provided by, or generally considered comparable to programming provided by, a television broadcast station, even when distributed over the Internet: covers video programming that was previously captioned for television viewing, live video programming, and new video programming provided by or generally considered to be comparable to programming provided by multichannel programming distributors; does not cover user-generated content (e.g., YouTube videos posted by individuals) (Current law:  Captioning required on most broadcast, cable and satellite TV shows)
  • Requires easy access to closed captions via remote control and on-screen menus

The National Association of the Deaf has more detail on the bill here.

How can you support it?

You can start by checking out the list of sponsors to see if your representative is listed. If your representative is on there, send ou a polite note expressing thanks for support. If your representative is not, you can send a letter asking that ou consider sponsoring the bill. COAT has a template available, although it is helpful to customise it a bit to make it more personal.

Don’t know who your representative is or not sure about how to contact your rep? The ‘Write Your Representative‘ tool will help you.

It’s also a good idea to contact your Senators to let them know that you support S 3304 and you would like them to support the bill. If your Senators happen to be on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, so much the better. You can see a list of Senate cosponsors here.

Caption Action 2 is keeping up on H.R. 3101 and posting regular updates.

  1. The different bill numbers reflect the separate systems used in the House and Senate. The bills must be identical for both houses to pass it and it to enter law.