Pryor Unveils Bill to Improve Internet and Technology Access for Blind and Deaf Community

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mark Pryor today unveiled legislation to improve access to the Internet and other technologies for blind and deaf individuals. He discussed the legislation today with faculty and students at the School for the Deaf and the School for the Blind in Little Rock, Arkansas.

“The Internet is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity to learn, interact and conduct business,” Pryor said. “That’s why my bill helps ensure every individual can have access to today’s innovative technologies. In the land of opportunity, everyone should be able to fully participate and compete in the 21st Century marketplace.”

Pryor said the Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act, which will officially be introduced on Tuesday, will improve overall access to audio and visual materials on the Internet for the deaf and blind. Specifically, the legislation will:

  • Create a one-stop shop for information on online products and services available to blind and deaf individuals;
  • Close existing gaps in accessibility by requiring technology like smart devices, including an iPhone or Blackberry, to be hearing aid compatible;
  • Require that programming shown on television also be closed captioned and video described when it is posted on the Internet. ex., nightly news, Razorback games, Lost;
  • Require video programming devices, such mp3 players and DVRs, to be capable of closed captioning, video description and emergency alerts; and
  • Authorize federal support for broadband service for low-income people with a disability, and specialized equipment for deaf or blind individuals.

During the event, Pryor said he was honored to receive a flag on canvas made by the students, which demonstrates how they can communicate their patriotism to the community.