There are a number of other laws and rules which address access to telecommunications and other technologies. Many of the rules and standards are focused on access for people with disabilities related to vision, hearing, and/or speech, but there are requirements designed to address barriers encountered by people with other types of disabilities as well (e.g. reaching and operating controls on an information transaction machine or a copier can present difficulties for some individuals who use wheelchairs or have limited strength or dexterity).
Section 255 of the Communications Act requires telecommunications service providers and equipment manufacturers, to the extent it is readily achievable, to make their services and products accessible to people with disabilities, and/or make them compatible with assistive devices commonly used by people with disabilities. The rules address a broad range of equipment (e.g. telephones, fax machines, answering machines, pagers) and services (e.g. telephone calls, call waiting, speed dialing, call forwarding, caller identification, call tracing, interactive voice response (IVR) systems, voice mail).
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act establishes requirements to improve the accessibility of electronic and information technologies developed, maintained, procured, or used by the federal government. The rules and standards address an array of technologies used by federal employees and/or members of the public, including telecommunications products and systems, computers, software applications, video and multi-media products, information kiosks, copiers, and Internet sites.
The U.S. Access Board develops guidelines for products under Section 255 as well as standards for technologies covered by Section 508 .
Additionally, a number of requirements related to both the manufacture of televisions and the production and broadcast of video programming are designed to increase the availability of closed captioning for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
This law, enacted in 2010, expands the scope of requirements related to closed captioning, ensures greater access to Internet-based communications and video programming, improves accountability and enforcement under Section 255, enhances support for telecommunications relay services, and requires greater accessibility of programming navigational guides, menus, and user-interface features.
The law also reinstates the FCC’s video description rules which were struck down by a federal court in 2002. Video descriptions, designed to benefit individuals who are blind or have low vision, are spoken phrases or narratives describing key visual elements such as actions, gestures, or scenery. Descriptions are inserted into natural pauses in the existing audio portion of a program, thereby creating an alternative audio track that individuals may select. The new rules will eventually result in more programming becoming available with this option.