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Making Emergency Information via Video Programming Accessible

April 08, 2013— The Federal Communications Commission (Commission) released a Report and Order and a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) (FCC 13-45) related to the accessibility of emergency information provided in video programming. The Report and Order requires that emergency information communicated via video programming is accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. This includes the requirement of an aural presentation of the emergency information on a secondary audio stream that must be conveyed at least twice in full. The use of text-to-speech (TTS) technologies is permitted for providing the aural presentation. In addition, the Report and Order also establishes apparatus requirements for the transmission of emergency information and video description to individuals with disabilities. Specifically, the apparatus is required to “receive, play back, or record video programming transmitted simultaneously with sound.” TTS capability is permitted, but not required.

The Commission also seeks comments on whether a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) service should be covered by the emergency information rules adopted in the Report and Order and required to comply specifically when their subscribers are provided access to linear video programming that contains emergency information via tablets, laptops, personal computers, or smartphones. In addition, comments are sought regarding the requirement for broadcast receivers to “detect and decode audio streams marked for the visually impaired” and whether covered entities should be required to assist individuals who are blind or visually impaired in traversing between main and secondary audio streams.

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The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center for Wireless Technologies is sponsored by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under grant number 90RE5007-01-00. The opinions contained in this website are those of the Wireless RERC and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or NIDILRR.