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21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010

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The 21st Century Commincations and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) was signed in to law by President Obama on October 8, 2010. This law includes two titles that address communications access and video programming. It acts as an update to federal communications law that increases the accessiblity of communication technology in the modern era. Previous accessiblity laws were passed in the 1980s and 1990s, so updates were required to include digital, broadband, and mobile technological innovations. The following article highlights some of the important aspects of the CVAA. For further exploration of this topic, visit the included websites in the Resources section.


Title 1: Communications Access

Under this title numerous issues are addressed including access to the internet, alternative communication methods, and emergency services.

Communications Services

These are defined as 1. interconnected voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) service; 2. non-interconnected VoIP service; 3. electronic messaging service; and 4. interoperable video conferencing service. Real world examples of these technologis include text messaging, instant messaging, e-mail, and video communications via Webcam.

Internet on mobile devices

It is required to provide access to the internet and web browsers via mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets for those individuals with visual impairments

Telecommunications Relay Services (TRS)

TRS is an operator service that allows individuals with hearing deficits, vision deficits, and speech impairments to place calls to standard telephone users via keyboard or other assitive devices. Several updates regarding TRS were included in the CVAA

  • Updated definition of TRS to include those individuals with deafness and blindness, and to allow communication between different types of relay users.
  • Requires interconnected and non-interconnected VoIP providers to contribute to Interstate TRS fund.
  • Allocates up to $10 million from the Interstate TRS fund for distribution of specialized equipment to low-income individuals with deafness and blindness so they may have access to telecommunications, the internet, and advanced communications devices.


Enables FCC action to ensure reliable and interoperable access to next generation emergency services.

Title 2: Video Programming

Closed Captions

  • Video Programming orginally aired on television is required to have closed captioning when distributed on the internet.
  • Closed captions must be capable of being displayed on screens smaller than 13 inches and requires that these devices be able to communicate video descriptions and emergency information, if technically feasible and achievable. This particularly addresses devices such as laptops, tablets, smartphones, and portable TVs.
  • If achievable, closed captions, video descriptions, and emergency information are required to be turned on/off when original video programming is played back through video recording equipment.
  • Requires interconnection equipment (e.g. cables, HDMI cords, etc.) to be able to pass through closed captions, video descriptions, and emergency information.
  • Requires user controls for TVs and other video programming devices to be accessible, and to have a button, key, icon, or comparable mechanism designated for easily activating closed captioning and video description.


  • [1]Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Last updated: 09/13/2011. Date accessed: 12/6/2012.
  • [2] PDF of CVAA 2010 Consumer Facts. Last Updated: 09/13/2011. Date Accessed: 12/6/2012.
  • [3]Transcription of President Obama's remarks on CVAA 2010. Last Updtated: 10/8/2010. Date Accessed: 12/6/2012.
  • [4] Full text of CVAA of 2010. Last Updated: 07/27/2010. Date Accessed: 12/6/2012.