ACB’s Imperatives Regarding Audio Description, Accessible Video Equipment, and the CVAA
Resolution 2016-01
Whereas, the historic Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) and its implementing regulations promise a revolution in the use and enjoyment of digital TV through audio description and accessible video equipment; and
Whereas, current law requires only a small number of television networks to carry a few hours of audio-described programming per quarter, amounting to a fraction of all TV programming available; and
Whereas, nearly 100% of all available TV programming is currently closed captioned, while only a tiny proportion of programming is being described today; and
Whereas, in some cases, instead of creating new audio-described material, old programs and movies are simply being repeated by certain networks; and
Whereas, the multiplicity of TV programming delivery methods available today has the potential to exponentially increase the demand for audio description; and
Whereas, producers and distributors of TV programming have told audio description advocates for decades that, if we would just be patient, the proliferation of digital TV delivery systems would naturally ensure the availability and designation of a specific digital audio stream for description; and
Whereas, even with the current technical capacity for twelve such available channels, to date there has been no meaningful industry effort to move toward the designation of a single channel reserved for audio description; and
Whereas, a designated description channel would allow for the creation of a single shortcut key or command that could be standardized on every delivery system to reliably actuate audio-described programming whenever such programming is available; and
Whereas, such a designation would also no longer require audio description to needlessly compete with second language audio services, which occurs today for those programs where secondary language takes precedence over description; and
Whereas, as the demand for audio description grows, whether in theaters, on television or via the myriad of other consumer choices, viewers who are blind or who have low vision have an increasingly urgent need for complete, accurate and timely information about what described content is being offered and how and where it can be enjoyed; and
Whereas, while for more than a decade, there has been a commitment to ensure that all captioned programs are accurately listed in a timely fashion, there is no comparable centralized listing of described TV content available today; and
Whereas, the CVAA has allowed the cable and satellite industries a more-than-generous time line to develop and distribute set-top boxes that are accessible; and
Whereas, by the end of 2016, providers are expected to have such equipment ready and available to their customers; and
Whereas, one provider, Comcast, has already demonstrated that development and distribution of an accessible solution is categorically achievable by making the “Talking Guide” and other components available today; and
Whereas, the more than 21 million American consumers with vision loss who could benefit from such accessible equipment have already had to wait an unconscionably long time for the simple dignity and pleasure of being able to independently choose television programs and to enjoy them with audio description; and
Whereas, a serious problem exists today with DVD players or DVD recordings in that it is currently impossible for people who are blind or who have low vision to easily select the audio description track on a DVD; and
Whereas, both the CVAA and the Federal Communications Commission’s ancillary jurisdiction surely vest the FCC with proper authority to address this issue;
Now, therefore, be it resolved by the American Council of the Blind in convention assembled on the 4th day of July, 2016, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Minneapolis, Minnesota, that this organization strongly urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to:

  • Substantially expand the number of hours of audio-described TV programming required per calendar quarter;
  • Increase the number of networks required to offer described programming and the designated markets in which audio description must be provided;
  • Propose and issue regulations requiring the designation of a dedicated digital audio stream only for audio description; and

Be it further resolved that this organization strongly urge the FCC to exercise all appropriate authority to foster the creation of, set standards for, and monitor the quality of a centralized described TV programming listing to ensure that information about audio-described programming is on par with information about captioned TV; and
Be it further resolved that this organization ask the FCC to encourage and support the establishment of a centralized supplemental resource listing all audio-described content, including content made available in movie theaters, on DVDs, or through Internet streaming services; and
Be it further resolved that this organization declare to the FCC our firm conviction that there is absolutely no justifiable rationale for granting any industry-proposed waivers or extensions to come into compliance with the FCC’s accessible cable and satellite equipment rules taking effect at the end of this year; and
Be it further resolved that this organization is prepared and stands ready to assist its members, chapters and affiliates to file complaints with the FCC as early as January 2017, against any cable or satellite provider, or any other covered entity, which is failing to comply with the CVAA and which consequently should be subject to the full weight of the CVAA’s penalties; and
Be it further resolved that this organization is prepared to take all appropriate actions to ensure that the FCC enforce the requirements of Section 204 of the CVAA to compel manufacturers of DVD players to make their user interfaces accessible, including assuring that audio description tracks can be accessed independently by people who are blind or visually impaired; and
Be it further resolved that this organization, through its elected and staff leadership and its Audio Description Project, remains ready and willing to work in amicable partnership with any and all industry stakeholders desiring to assess the accessibility and usability of solutions for any of the matters discussed herein which they may be considering or they may wish to propose.
Ray Campbell, Secretary