On May 21, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) expanded its rules to ensure that critical emergency information shown on television is made accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired.
The new rules, enacted through a Second Report and Order, will require visually displayed emergency information to be available aurally on laptops, tablets, smartphones or similar devices. When emergency information appears on a television screen, it is followed by three tones. Individuals who are blind or visually impaired will be able to switch to a secondary audio stream to hear televised emergency information when they hear the three tones. The new rules also require manufacturers to provide a simple method of switching between the main program audio and secondary audio streams in order to hear the critical information in real time.
The new rules resume the FCC’s application of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA), which was designed to update federal communications laws to increase the access of persons with disabilities to modern communications. The latest FCC expansion helps to establish new safeguards for disability access to ensure that people with disabilities are not left behind as technology changes and advances within the United States.