Friday, July 31, 2009

How Does HR 3101 Affect Federal Agencies?

Caption Action 2 had been wondering how HR 3101 applies to the Federal government. On YouTube there is a U.S. Government channel: Many if not most of the videos on that channel are not captioned. There is a button labeled "Accessible Video Library," but the videos in that library are just a fraction of what is available on the U.S. Government YouTube channel.

The main U.S. Government channel has a lengthy list of Federal agencies with video content. Ironically, the U.S. Department of Education does not have captions on its YouTube videos. This is the Department of Education, folks! Of all agencies that should be captioning online, it should be the Department of Education!!

So Caption Action 2 contacted Rosaline Crawford, the Director, Law and Advocacy Center for the National Association of the Deaf. We asked Crawford, "How does HR 3101 apply to the Federal government?" especially with regard to the YouTube U.S. Government Channel. Crawford responded that was a good question to ask.

According to Crawford, when the government has a YouTube channel, it makes them start to look like an entity (similar to ABC, NBC, CNN) that would be covered by the Communications Act. At the same time, Crawford pointed out that HR 3101 is not needed for the Federal government. There is already a law, Section 508, that requires the Federal government to make its electronic and information technology accessible! See for more information. Crawford quoted one thing from "The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology." Another law that applies to the Federal government is Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires effective communication with deaf and hard of hearing people.
"Communicating on the Internet does not excuse federal agencies from those long-standing obligations under Section 504," said Crawford.
Finally, Crawford said that when deaf and hard of hearing people see a Federal video that is not captioned, they should file a complaint under Section 504 and/or Section 508 with the Federal agency's office for civil rights.

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