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Introduction to the CVAA

Written by: Esty Peskowitz

The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) is a law enacted in 2010 that ensures communications and media services, content, and equipment are accessible to users with disabilities. It also requires video programming and advanced communications services such as electronic messaging, video chat, and Internet-based voice chat be accessible to individuals with disabilities.

The CVAA, like many other ADA laws, has a great emphasis on the end user’s accessibility than versus how the material is relayed. While this allows the CVAA to remain relevant during technology changes, it presents challenges for equipment manufacturers, as there isn’t one concrete way to ensure compliance.

Unlike other accessibility laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act or the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the CVAA is a telecommunications law. It piggybacks on existing laws like the Communications Act of 1934 and the Telecommunications Act of 1996. In terms of enforcement, it uses existing Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which means that when a claim is made under the CVAA, it’s first heard by the FCC, and may later be appealed to federal courts. The benefit here is that the CVAA empowers the FCC to adopt additional regulations to guarantee accessibility.

The CVAA is divided into two titles:

  • Title I – covers Communication Access by increasing the inclusivity of communication access by users with disabilities; and
  • Title II – covers Video Programming which requires that video programming, services, and equipment are accessible to users with disabilities.

If compliance with the CVAA is not achievable under a statutory test, organizations can apply for an exemption. When doing so, they must present substantial evidence to the FCC to achieve this.

This was back in 2012 for video games. The CVAA granted a compliance waiver for video games that just expired in December of 2018. Given the advancements made in video games technology and virtual reality, the FCC did not renew the waiver. This means that now, video game software manufacturers must either comply with the CVAA’s requirements for accessibility or make the case to obtain a waiver for their particular game.

Like many telecommunications laws, the CVAA seems highly technical. That’s why we’re here – to help you and your organization understand and comply with the CVAA’s requirements. We have technical experts on staff who will assist you in making your products and services accessible to individuals with disabilities.