In June, I wrote an action item asking readers to support The Twenty First Century Video and Telecommunications Accessibility Act. I’m pleased to report that the House version of the bill, HR 3101, just passed, thanks to a lot of work by disability advocates (and a few FWD readers)! Now, it’s the Senate’s turn. The Senate has its own version of the bill, and we are faced with either Senate passage of their version and then reconciliation (writing a bill that both chambers will agree to) or Senate adoption and passage of HR 3101, at which point the bill can be sent to the White House for the President to sign.
The Senate version, S 3304, is not as strong as HR 3101. Neither version requires captioning for web-only content, but HR 3101 requires reporting on captioning of content generated for the web. This opens the door to possible regulatory action in the future to mandate Internet captions. Advocates, including Marlee Matlin, want to see the Senate adopting HR 3101, the stronger bill, to pave the way to better captioning for online content.
I’m writing today to ask those of you in the United States to write your Senators and ask them to support Senate adoption and passage of HR 3101. If your Senator is on the Committee for Commerce, Science, and Transportation, so much the better! The Senate could be voting as early as this week, so consider this a time-sensitive issue.
Below the fold, a draft letter you can send to your Senator. I highly encourage you to personalise it a bit if you can, because personalised letters are weighted more heavily.
My name is [name] and I am a disabled resident of [State]. I am writing to ask you to support the adoption and passage of HR 3101, The Twenty First Century Video and Telecommunications Accessibility Act. As a person with disabilities in the United States, I am very concerned about accessibility issues, and this bill will improve accessibility for many of your constituents.
HR 3101 has stronger provisions for web-only content, which is why I am writing to encourage you to adopt it rather than passing the Senate version of this bill. Internet-only content is on the rise and many people with disabilities rely heavily on the Internet to access entertainment, information, and educational materials. Making this content more accessible would make a significant different in the lives of people like myself and my friends. Current barriers to access are a source of frustration for many people with disabilities.
[If you are personalising, it helps to add a note about your Senator’s record and your history of support, as in:
I know that you have been a strong advocate for disability rights issues in the past, as evidenced by your support of [some other initiative]. It is one of the reasons I and other people with disabilities are proud to consider ourselves among your supporters.
Your record does not show a strong history of support for disability rights issues. Please help turn that around by taking action on video and telecommunications accessibility for people with disabilities!]
Thank you for your consideration,