Deaf Actor Testifies to Support Equal Access to Communications and Video Technologies

Asking for legislation ensuring that people with disabilities benefit like everyone else from emerging technologies.

by / May 2, 2008

The Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT) is pleased to announce that Russell Harvard, a deaf Hollywood actor from Austin, Texas, appearing in the double-academy award winning There Will Be Blood, testified Thursday at a House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet hearing on the proposed draft of "Enhancing Access to Broadband Technology and Services for Persons with Disabilities."

Other witnesses include Jamaal Anderson, defensive end and 2007 first round draft pick of the NFL Atlanta Falcons whose father is a leading deaf educator and former board member of Gallaudet University; and Sergeant Major Jesse Acosta, a distinguished army veteran whose vision was seriously injured in Iraq.

The three celebrity and hero witnesses are testifying to the need for passage of legislation to ensure that, as our nation migrates from legacy telephone and television products to more versatile and innovative digital and Internet-based communications and video programming, people with disabilities must benefit like everyone else. In addition to generally requiring access to Internet-based communications services, legislative action is needed to achieve the following:

  • Extend the closed captioning mandates to certain Internet-based video programming
  • Require video devices with screens smaller than 13-inches to display captioning
  • Mandate video description on television so people who are blind can have access to program content and visual emergency information
  • Require accessible user interfaces/menus on video programming devices such as TVs, VCRs, and DVR players
  • Mandate hearing aid compatibility on "Smart" or Internet-enabled phones
  • Allow eligible consumers with disabilities who must use broadband for phone calls to apply their Universal Service Fund (USF) discounts to high speed Internet service
  • Allocate USF funds for the distribution of specialized equipment needed to provide telecommunications access for individuals who are deaf-blind.