The FCC approved a series of measures Thursday to make it easier for disabled people to use communications devices, including one that makes it easier to for the blind to use cellphones to browse the internet and another that reinstates requirements for audio narration on television programs.
The plans call for implementing more of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, including reinstating rules previously overturned by a court more than 10 years ago.
"There's no longer a dispute on this central point: access to technology means access to jobs and full participation in our society and the global economy," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement. "With access to broadband, an individual with disabilities can telecommute or run a business out of her home; receive remote health and job-related support; or gain access to online educational classes and digital books."
The FCC published a first Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on a measure that would ensure that device manufacturers provide products that can be used by people with disabilities. The first proposal also includes efforts to make mobile phone Internet browsers accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.
The second item approved by the commission will reinstate rules that require broadcasters to provide a minimum amount of audio narration of images in TV programs. The rules were overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals but the FCC says Communications and Video Accessibility Act provides the FCC with the full authority to reissue such rules.
The commission also approved a measure that would explore options for subsidizing service providers who serve individuals with hearing and speech disabilities.