APPENDIX B: Disability Related Provisions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996

NOTE: Although video programming accessibility is not within the scope of this document and is not covered or treated elsewhere, it is included in this Appendix for reference and because it is a disability related provision in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

I. Section 255: Access by Persons with Disabilities.

(a) DEFINITIONS-- As used in this section --

(1) DISABILITY -- The term 'disability' has the meaning given to it by section 3(2)(A) of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 12102(2)(A)).

(2) READILY ACHIEVABLE -- The term 'readily achievable' has the meaning given to it by section 301(9) of that Act (42 U.S.C. 12181(9)).

(b) MANUFACTURING -- A manufacturer of telecommunications equipment or customer premises equipment shall ensure that the equipment is designed, developed, and fabricated to be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, if readily achievable.

(c) TELECOMMUNICATIONS SERVICES -- A provider of telecommunications services shall ensure that the service is accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, if readily achievable.

(d) COMPATIBILITY -- Whenever the requirements of subsections (b) and (c) are not readily achievable, such a manufacturer or provider shall ensure that the equipment or service is compatible with existing peripheral devices or specialized customer premises equipment commonly used by individuals with disabilities to achieve access, if readily achievable.

(e) GUIDELINES -- Within 18 months after the date of enactment of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board shall develop guidelines for accessibility of telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment in conjunction with the Commission. The Board shall review and update the guidelines periodically.

(f) NO ADDITIONAL PRIVACY RIGHTS AUTHORIZED -- Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize any privacy right of action to enforce any requirement of this section or any regulation thereunder. The Commission shall have exclusive jurisdiction with respect to any complaint under this section.

II. Section 251: Interconnection.

(a) GENERAL DUTY OF TELECOMMUNI-CATIONS CARRIERS -- Each telecommunications carrier has the duty --

1. to interconnect directly or indirectly with the facilities and equipment of other telecommunications carriers; and

2. not to install network features, functions, or capabilities that do not comply with the guidelines and standards established pursuant to section 255 or 256.

III. Section 305: Video Programming Accessibility.

Title VII is amended by inserting after section 712 (47 U.S.C. 612) the following new section:

"SEC. 713. VIDEO PROGRAMMING ACCESSIBILITY.

(a) Commission Inquiry.--Within 180 days after the date of enactment of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Federal Communications Commission shall complete an inquiry to ascertain the level at which video programming is closed captioned. Such inquiry shall examine the extent to which existing or previously published programming is closed captioned, the size of the video programming provider or programming owner providing closed captioning, the size of the market served, the relative audience shares achieved, or any other related factors. The Commission shall submit to the Congress a report on the results of such inquiry.

(b) Accountability Criteria.--Within 18 months after such date of enactment, the Commission shall prescribe such regulations as are necessary to implement this section. Such regulations shall ensure that--

(1) video programming first published or exhibited after the effective date of such regulations is fully accessible through the provision of closed captions, except as provided in subsection (d); and

(2) video programming providers or owners maximize the accessibility of video programming first published or exhibited prior to the effective date of such regulations through the provision of closed captions, except as provided in subsection (d).

(c) Deadlines for Captioning.--Such regulations shall include an appropriate schedule of deadlines for the provision of closed captioning of video programming.

(d) Exemptions.--Notwithstanding subsection (b)-

(1) the Commission may exempt by regulation programs, classes of programs, or services for which the Commission has determined that the provision of closed captioning would be economically burdensome to the provider or owner of such programming;

(2) a provider of video programming or the owner of any program carried by the provider shall not be obligated to supply closed captions if such action would be inconsistent with contracts in effect on the date of enactment of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, except that nothing in this section shall be construed to relieve a video programming provider of its obligations to provide services required by Federal law; and

(3) a provider of video programming or program owner may petition the Commission for an exemption from the requirements of this section, and the Commission may grant such petition upon a showing that the requirements contained in this section would result in an undue burden.

(e) Undue Burden.--The term 'undue burden' means significant difficulty or expense. In determining whether the closed captions necessary to comply with the requirements of this paragraph would result in an undue economic burden, the factors to be considered include--

(1) the nature and cost of the closed captions for the programming;

(2) the impact on the operation of the provider or program owner;

(3) the financial resources of the provider or program owner; and

(4) the type of operations of the provider or program owner.

(f) Video Descriptions Inquiry.--Within 6 months after the date of enactment of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Commission shall commence an inquiry to examine the use of video descriptions on video programming in order to ensure the accessibility of video programming to persons with visual impairments, and report to Congress on its findings. The Commission's report shall assess appropriate methods and schedules for phasing video descriptions into the marketplace, technical and quality standards for video descriptions, a definition of programming for which video descriptions would apply, and other technical and legal issues that the Commission deems appropriate.

(g) Video Description.--For purposes of this section, `video description' means the insertion of audio narrated descriptions of a television program's key visual elements into natural pauses between the program's dialogue.

(h) Private Rights of Actions Prohibited.--Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize any private right of action to enforce any requirement of this section or any regulation thereunder. The Commission shall have exclusive jurisdiction with respect to any complaint under this section.