by Melanie Brunson and Eric Bridges

On Sept. 28, the following message was sent out by ACB's director of advocacy and governmental affairs, Eric Bridges:

"Just after 9 p.m. Eastern time, the U.S. House of Representatives passed S. 3304, The Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act and its technical corrections bill. The bills passed by a voice vote. This represents resounding bipartisan support.

"ACB as a steering committee member of the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT) wishes to express its sincere appreciation for the tireless advocacy that Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) demonstrated through this long and difficult process. The blind and deaf-blind communities have staunch advocates in both of these congressional leaders.

"It is also quite appropriate to express our thanks to the Chairmen of the House Energy and Commerce along with the Senate Commerce committee, Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Sen. Rockefeller (D-WV) for the critical role they played in working with COAT and the Republicans on his committee so that the bill could be bipartisan. Thank you also to the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Joe Barton (R-TX) and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) along with Sens. Hutchison (R-TX) and Ensign (R-NV) for their willingness to work in a bipartisan way. As many of you know, bipartisanship is a rare occurrence in Washington these days.

"The next step in the process is for the bill to go to the White House for Presidential signature, after which it will become public law. The signing will take place in the next 10 days. In his remarks this evening, Rep. Markey mentioned me by name as having been a lead advocate for this legislation. It was an honor to be recognized, but the credit should not go to me. The relentless support that ACB members have shown through this long and difficult process has been remarkable. I sincerely believe that if it weren't for the continuous advocacy of members, this bill would never have passed. Congratulations to one and all on a job well done!" -- Eric

ACB is indeed proud of the work that was done by Eric Bridges, and many of you who are reading this article. Your efforts have resulted in what can only be described as a major victory for ACB, and Americans with disabilities all across the country.

The following is a brief summary of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act. It will:

-- Require captioned television programs to be captioned when delivered over the Internet;

-- Authorize the FCC to require 7 hours per week of video description on the top 4 network channels and top 5 cable channels nationwide;

-- Allocate up to $10 million per year for equipment used by individuals who are deaf-blind;

-- Require televised emergency information to be accessible to individuals who are blind or have low vision;

-- Require accessible advanced communications equipment and services, such as text messaging and e-mail;

-- Require access to Internet services that are built into mobile telephone devices, like smart phones, if achievable;

-- Require devices of any size to be capable of displaying closed captioning, delivering available video description, and making emergency information accessible;

-- Require accessible user controls for televisions and set-top boxes, and easy access to closed captioning and video description.

For more detailed information, see the section-by-section summary of what S. 3304 (as amended) will do for us at

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