Video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Webex could be subject to accessibility requirements under a proposal from FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. If approved, this would be the first initiative of its kind to ensure that these platforms are interoperable and comply with the Communications Act. The proposal would require the companies to make their video conferencing platforms accessible to people with disabilities and provide features such as closed captioning, keyboard navigation, and the ability to increase text size.
"The pandemic taught us all the value of video conferencing—to stay connected, to get work done, to stay in touch with our doctors, and much more. But for many people with disabilities, making effective use of these platforms continues to be a challenge," said Rosenworcel. '[The FCC] seeks to ensure "that video conferencing platforms are usable by all who rely on them to stay connected to their family, friends, co-workers, and community."
Representative Anna Eshoo and Senator Edward Markey introduced legislation outlining similar measures in the last Congress.
"People with disabilities deserve equal access to the tools and technologies that define life in the 21st century – and that includes video conferencing," Markey and Eshoo said in a statement. "Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, video conferencing has become increasingly essential for work, education, and healthcare, but many video conferencing services fall short for people with disabilities, leaving them disconnected.
"We applaud Chairwoman Rosenworcel for her leadership and look forward to working with the FCC to ensure people with disabilities have full access to video conferencing platforms and other important services."
The rest of the commission will vote on the proposed rulemaking. Public comments will be sought if it is pushed forward.
Rosenworcel also announced the FCC will re-charter the Communications Equity and Diversity Council (CEDC) for another two-year term. The CEDC operates to advocate for a greater diversity of voices in the communications industry. The Council's primary goal is to advise and guide the FCC on fostering a greater diversity of ownership in the communications industry. It consists of representatives from a wide range of industry stakeholders.
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