What Does Your Business Need to Do? How to Get Up to Date with the CVAA
This post is part 4 of a series titled Everything You Need to Know about the FCC Accessibility Regulations. To see any of the blog posts in this series, please follow the navigation at the bottom of the page.
In the last few blog posts, we’ve looked at both titles of the CVAA and the regulations that businesses must adhere to if they are included. In this post, we’ll discuss how to figure out if your business needs to adhere to the rules of the CVAA and what you need to do to get up to date.
Quick Overview of the CVAA
Firstly, let’s recap what the CVAA is. The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) was passed in 2010 to enable people with disabilities to have access to the emerging technologies of the 21st century. It is broken down into 2 titles, each of which is briefly described below.
Title 1: Communication Access
Title 1 determines that advanced communication products and services that utilize broadband must be accessible and usable by people with disabilities, including smart phones, tablets, laptops, gaming consoles and more. This part of the CVAA also describes the requirement for these products to have Text-to-911 capabilities. Learn more about title 1 in our Basics of Title 1 of the CVAA: Communication Access post.
Title 2: Video Programming
Title 2 aims to enable users with disabilities to consume video programming on television and on the internet easily. Title 2 also increases accessibility to emergency information by requiring a second audio stream to be dedicated to the aural presentation of emergency information if it is not aurally presented during the main video program. Learn more about title 2 in our Basics of Title 2 of the CVAA: Video Programming post.
In short, the CVAA was designed to ensure that all emerging technologies of the 21st century are easily accessible by people with disabilities. So let’s answer the question on everyone’s minds – does this apply to my business and if so, what do I have to do to get up to date?
Do the CVAA Regulations Apply to your Business?
Step 1 is figuring out if your business needs to adhere to any of the parts of the CVAA. This is important to do because it is your responsibility to discover if these regulations apply to your business. To help, we’ve put together a list of products and services that are included in the CVAA’s regulations.
Title 1: Communication Access
Title 1 of the CVAA “requires advanced communications services and products to be accessible by people with disabilities”. According to the FFC, advanced communication services and products are defined as having the following abilities:
- “Interconnected voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) service;
- Non-interconnected VoIP service;
- Electronic messaging service; and
- Interoperable video conferencing service. This includes, for example, text messaging, e-mail, instant messaging, and video communications.”
Basically, advanced communication services and products include all technological devices that use Wi-Fi or 4G, or connect to the internet in some way. If your product allows people to connect to the internet, check their emails, or send text messages then your device must adhere to the CVAA’s regulations.
This covers a huge range of emerging technologies, including:
- Products or services that provide text messaging, instant messaging, email communication or other text-based communication services.
- Set-top boxes
- Mobile phones
- Gaming consoles and more.
- Products or services that provides non-interconnected VoIP based communication
- Chat and visual communication services, such as Skype or Facebook Chat
- Products or services that provide video based communication
- Skype, FaceTime and other visual communication services
- Webinars and other products that enable real-time visual communication over the internet
- Products or services that enable access to the internet
- Internet browsers
- Internet Service Providers (ISP)
What about Third Party Apps for Advanced Communication Products?
Third party apps that you download to your smart phone or tablet are currently NOT included in Title 1’s regulations. Only what comes on the phone or advanced communication product when it arrives at the end-user needs to be accessible. However, we’d recommend keeping an eye on this because there are challenges to this occurring that aim to make third party apps inclusive in these regulations.
Title 2: Video Programming
Title 2 enforces video programming producers to enable their content to be consumed by people with disabilities, along with providing reasonable access to emergency information. So, if you produce or deliver video programming content for personal consumption, then yes, the regulations of the CVAA apply to you. This includes (but is not limited to):
- Set-top boxes
- Digital cable ready televisions
- DVRs, such as TiVo
- Smart phones
- Any other device that contain multi-channel video programming (MPVD) capabilities or applications.
Note that this is not a comprehensive list. There are far too many emerging communication-based products and services that are now available to list them all. If you are unsure if your product or service has to comply with the CVAA’s regulations, you can contact the FCC here to discuss your business requirements.
What Your Business Needs to Do
So, you’ve discovered that your product or service does fall into the list of advanced communication services or is used to convey video programming on the internet. Now what do you need to do?
The responsibility for providing accessibility for disabled users is in the hands of the business manufacturing the product and providing the service. This means that you must provide at least one way for people with disabilities to access and use your product or service.
This can be built into the product or you can use a third part solution at nominal cost. If this is not achievable, it is acceptable to enable your product to be compatible with other accessibility solutions, such as hearing aid compatibility. However, you must be able to prove it was not achievable to add the accessibility features to your product or service.
You need to ensure that visually and hearing impaired users of your device can have the best possible access to all functions on the device. This includes incorporating a way for the hearing impaired to consume primarily audio content (e.g. videos will require captioning, your device will require hearing aid compatibility) and a way for the visually impaired to consume primarily visual content (e.g. using text-to-speech technology to read out what is presented on the screen).
If you’d like to learn more about what disabilities are covered by the CVAA, take a look at our 1st post: Introduction to the CVAA. Also, you can visit our previous blog posts to learn about the specific regulations for Title 1 and Title 2.
Record Keeping Rules of the CVAA
As part of the CVAA, the manufacturers of advanced communications services and products and of video programming related services and products must maintain records as evidence that they have complied with the CVAA.
Key things to note about the record keeping rules:
- You must create and maintain records of efforts taken to comply with the act
- Information about efforts to consult with people with disabilities
- Descriptions of the accessibility features that you’ve included in your product or service.
- These records must be maintained for at least 2 years after a product or service ceases to be offered or manufactures
- These records do not need to be made public.
Entities that must comply with these new regulations must submit an annual record keeping compliance certificate to the FCC annually on April 1st that states that records are being kept in accordance with the CVAA. To learn more or to find out how to submit your annual record keeping certification, click here.
See the full report on the Record Keeping Requirements from the FCC here.
When do you need to have this done by?
Well, it depends what part of the regulations affect you.
In general, these requirements came into effect January 1, 2013. This is when the record-keeping requirements came into effect, so make sure that if any of these regulations apply to your business that you are keeping well-documented and clear evidence of your compliance to the CVAA.
Most of Title 2’s regulations, such as the requirements for closed captioning being provided on internet video programming came into effect throughout 2013 and 2014, so hopefully you have got up to date on these. If you’re a producer of video programming for TV and internet consumption and you haven’t looked into these regulations, we’d recommend taking a look at our blog post specifically about Title 2 of the CVAA here. (link to second blog post).
However, some parts of the CVAA were granted extensions. For example, producers of e-books (such as Amazon’s Kindle) petitioned to be granted an extension. This was granted – so if you’re a producer of e-books you have until January 28th 2016 to get your product into compliance.
Also, if you’re a broadcaster or distributor of programming, you’ll need to have emergency information available in a secondary audio stream by November 30, 2015. Originally, the FCC wanted the deadline to be in May 2015, but the deadline got pushed back. If you’d like to learn more about why the deadline was pushed back, check out this article.
Some extensions or waivers are very specific and as such, we will not be listing all of them here. For example, baby monitors which enable video recording do not have to have closed captioning options and have been made except from the CVAA’s regulations. If you’re unsure if your product or service needs to adhere to the CVAA’s regulations, you can contact the FCC to discuss it.
What happens if you don’t comply with these new regulations?
If your product or service is found not to be complying with these new regulations, you can be fined up to $100,000 per day for violations, up to a maximum of $1 million. The FCC can also order you to bring your products into compliance.
You Might Not Have to Comply with the CVAA
This can all seem rather daunting, especially if you’re selling a product or service that was not designed for disabled users at all. If these regulations do apply to your business, you might have to go back to square one and discover how to integrate accessibility features into your product and service.
However, here is a curve ball you should note – accessibility is only required if it is “achievable” (in the words of the FCC). But what exactly is “achievable”? To determine what is “achievable” the FCC looks at 4 factors:
- Nature and cost of accessibility
- Technical and economic impact on the operations of the manufacturer
- The manufacturer’s type of operations
- The extent to which the manufacturer can provide accessible services with different functionality and features with different price points.
This means that if you cannot add accessibility features to your product or service, you might be granted discretion and allowed to continue selling your product or service without meeting the CVAA’s regulations. However, if you claim your product or service is in the “un-achievable” category, it is up to you to prove this to the FCC.
Should You Use Text-to-Speech to Get Up to Standard?
Definitely! Text-to-Speech (TTS) technology offers a range of benefits, including:
- Dynamic and highly flexible
- Can be used to automatically find new information and read it aloud
- Available 24/7
- Can be embedded into a range of devices, including smart phones, tablets, set-top boxes, gaming consoles and more
- Usually the easiest option to implement
- Usually the cheapest option to implement
At NeoSpeech, we offer a range of solutions, including our TTS Cloud Service for access to an online text-to-speech engine and a variety of downloadable text-to-speech solutions that can be customized to your product or service.
The alternative is hiring a voice actor to read out your video program, broadcast or menu, which not only sounds incredibly boring for them but also very expensive for you. Not only is a text-to-speech solution cheaper, but it also runs automatically so you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’re meeting the required standards. Also, our voices don’t need sleep – they can work whenever your program is.
You can learn more about Text-to-Speech and our TTS solutions here:
- NeoSpeech’s Text-to-Speech products
- TTS Cloud Service for text-to-speech online
- Blog Post: What is Text-to-Speech and How Does it Work?
- Blog Post: The Advantages of Using Text-to-Speech
To discuss our TTS options and how we can make this work for your business, please feel free to fill out our Sales Inquiry form and one of our friendly sales team members will be happy to help.
Learn More about the CVAA
- The FCC’s Consumer Guide to the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act 2010
- More information on the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act 2010
- Record Keeping Rules Overview
- To find out how to submit your annual record keeping certification, click here.
Everything You Need to Know about the FCC Accessibility Regulations
What Does Your Business Need to Do? How to get up to date with the CVAA