What is the CVAA?

The Twenty-First Century Communication and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) is a United States accessibility law that was signed in October 2010. The objective of this law was to ensure that emerging technologies and communication channels are accessible to people with disabilities. Advancements and innovations in digital, mobile, and broadband innovations came under the purview of the CVAA.


What Are the Key Components of the CVAA?

The CVAA covers two key aspects – Telecommunication access and video programming:

  • Telecommunication Access – This component specifies that advanced communications products and services must be accessible to people with disabilities. This includes email, instant messaging, video communications, as well as text messaging. People with visual impairment or blindness should be able to access web browsers on their mobile phones.
  • Video Programming – This component specifies that television programming and streaming video must be accessible. The primary focus of this component is on closed captioning. From the standpoint of web accessibility, any video programming that has been shown on television with captions should be captioned when shown on the web. With the focus on closed captions, people who are deaf or hard of hearing will be able to access online and television-based programs with ease.


Compliance Requirements

The due dates for captioning for three types of video programming are summarized in the following table:

Category Type of Video Programming for which Captioning is Necessary as per CVAA
Full-length video programming
  • Pre-recorded
  • Not edited for Internet distribution
  • Shown on or after September 30, 2012
  • Live/near-live programming
  • Shown on or after March 30, 2013
  • Pre-recorded content that has been edited for Internet distribution
  • Shown on or after September 30, 2013
Internet video clips
  • Straight lift clips
  • Shown on or after January 1, 2016
  • Montages
  • Shown on or after January 1, 2017
  • Video clips of live and near-live TV programming
  • Shown on or after July 1, 2017
Archival Video programming While distributors do have time to add captions to video programming already shown on the web and then shown on TV with captions, please refer

https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/captioning-internet-video-programming for a complete list of dates.


Who Needs to Implement the CVAA?

In February 2016, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) confirmed that the responsibility of providing closed captions and ensuring their quality lies with video producers and distributors.

“Those who produce and distribute video for television have a shared responsibility to ensure that closed captioning is both available and accurate,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

While video programmers were responsible for the quality of captions, the technical aspects of captioning, as well as its delivery, need to be taken care of by the cable and satellite companies.


The Benefits of the CVAA for Website Accessibility

While the CVAA states that video programming that is captioned on television must also be captioned when published on the Internet, if a program has been shown only on the Internet, it does not need to be captioned.

For example, streaming services, such as Netflix Originals, that create video content only for the Internet, do not have to provide captions. However, this content is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

In 2011, Netflix was sued by the National Association of the Deaf for not providing closed captioning. The court ruled in favour of the National Association of the Deaf, because as per ADA, websites are places of ‘public accommodation.’

However, content generated by consumers, such as vlogs or homemade videos, need not contain captioning.

By applying a combination of the CVAA and the ADA, the world of entertainment and telecommunications opens to a larger audience of people with disabilities.


Learn More

To learn more about the CVAA, click here -> CVAA