Assistive technologies are rapidly evolving, leading to the development of innovative and user-friendly devices for persons with disabilities. Legislation plays a key role to support and promote the use of assistive devices and services. Here is an update on some of the recent legislative actions related to assistive technology and accessibility.
Legislation to support assistive technologies for people with limb loss
On April 13, 2021, the "Access to Assistive Technology and Devices for Americans Study Act" (H.R. 2461) was introduced in the House to support research and development that would increase access to assistive devices for people with limb differences or limb loss. The legislation also focuses on creating policies that will enhance the standards of care in this area.
Named as the “Triple A Study Act,” the legislation would require the Government Accountability Office to produce a report that assesses the provision of medical services and requisite insurance coverage for persons who experience amputations or live with limb differences. The report would also evaluate the provision of rehab services to support acclimation to assistive technologies. A detailed review of coding for physical therapy and occupation therapy and medical professional services in this area would also be undertaken.
Colorado introduces bill to improve website accessibility standards
In Colorado measures to ensure assistive technologies work properly with public-facing information technology are underway in a "first-of-its-kind" piece of legislation.
Colorado House Bill 21-1110 aims to strengthen existing state law regarding disability discrimination protection. It prohibits the exclusion of people with disabilities from participation in activities, programs, or services of public entities or the denial of benefits of such services to them.
The bill also adds language to define the failure of public entities' adherence to website accessibility guidelines. It enables aggrieved parties to sue in a civil court on this account. Once the provisions of the bill come into force, Colorado will become the first state that makes website accessibility a legal requirement for public entities.
State agencies in Colorado are required to create their plans to meet website accessibility standards by July 1, 2022, and submit them to the Office of Information Technology (OIT). The deadline for the implementation of these plans by both state and local agencies is July 1, 2024. The OIT will hire a software development firm to help state and local agencies implement the website accessibility standards.
FCC invites comments from stakeholders regarding CVAA rules
On April 7, 2021, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a public notice inviting comments from various stakeholders regarding any updates that may be required for the FCC’s fulfillment of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA).
CVAA requires that persons with disabilities have access to advanced communications products and services, such as VoIP service, electronic messaging, and interoperable video conferencing. It also mandates that people with visual impairment should have access to web browsers included in mobile devices.
Any video programming on TV with closed captions, when distributed online, should also have closed captions. Video programming equipment that displays closed captions on TV programs should also be capable of showing closed captions on small screen devices.