In 2011, the FCC (News - Alert) released an order implementing provisions of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 to ensure that people with disabilities have access to advanced communications services and equipment used to provide such services. The CVAA defines ACS (News - Alert) to mean interconnected VoIP service; non-interconnected VoIP service (i.e., one-way VoIP services); electronic messaging service; and interoperable videoconferencing service. This definition arguably covers a wide range of equipment providers and service providers, including hosted service providers, offering ACS equipment or services.
Under the FCC’s rules, covered ACS service providers and manufacturers are obligated to make their products and services accessible to people with disabilities as long as it is “achievable” to do so. First, the order sets a wide range of requirements concerning what covered entities must do to ensure accessibility in equipment and services, including accessibility evaluation during product development, product testing through certain standards and protocols (and performance objectives), and product documentation requirements. Second, covered entities must maintain records about efforts to consult with individuals with disabilities, descriptions of accessibility features, and compatibility with peripheral devices. Finally, they must annually certify with the FCC that records are being kept in accordance with the recordkeeping requirements, as well as provide the FCC with contact information for the handling of consumer complaints related to disability access issues.
Covered manufacturers and providers of ACS (including both two-way and one-way VoIP) that fail to meet the FCC’s CVAA requirements may be subject to investigations and fines. The FCC has recently issued public notices reminding VoIP and other covered providers of their obligations under the CVAA and the FCC’s regulations, demonstrating the commission’s focus on this issue.
Edited by Maurice Nagle