The FCC is Pushing Broadcasters to Ensure Information is Accessible to Viewers with Disabilities

The FCC sent out a Public Notice to TV broadcasters, satellite and cable services and other video distributors reminding them of their responsibility to make important information available to those with disabilities. The commission’s rules specifically apply to emergency communications televised on the air and ensuring viewers are able to receive it and know how to respond.

Section 79.2 of the commission’s rules defines emergency information as “[i]nformation, about a current emergency, that is intended to further the protection of life, health, safety and property.” This includes topics like pandemics, severe storms, hurricanes, widespread fires, floods, icing, heavy snowstorms, and even school closings just to name a few.

The rules state that for the blind and visually impaired, any emergency news broadcast, whether during a scheduled news hour or interrupting regular programming must be accompanied by aural dictation of the information so viewers can get the message without having to see or read what’s on the screen.

The Notice also reiterated the FCC rules for deaf and hard of hearing regulations, stating that emergency information must be communicated with on-screen text or closed captioning for those who can’t hear the audio. The commission encouraged broadcasters and other video program distributors to make this part of their day to day operating standards.

If these rules have been violated by an emergency broadcast, users can file a complaint at www.fcc.gov/accessibilitycomplaints.

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