Did you know that accessibility in video games are partly regulated by the United States Federal Communication Commission? Back on October 8. 2010, then-President Obama signed the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, known shortly as CVAA. This amended the Communications Act of 1934 to include providers of and equipment manufacturers that provide hardware for “Advanced Communications Services”, ACS for short, to make their services and products accessible to and useable by individuals with disabilities.
ACS was defined by the CVAA to include communication services such as VoIP, e-mail, instant messaging, SMS text messaging, and video conferencing service. This meant that a large number of video games, the consoles they’re played on, and game distribution and communication systems fell under these regulations due to their inclusion of various ACS functions within. These are not small regulations either, and so the Entertainment Software Association, or ESA, has request a couple of extension waivers since CVAA was signed.
CVAA has waiver options for various reasons, and the ESA has successfully defended their waiver requests thanks to some of those reasons. The biggest point, though, is the fact that most gaming systems and software are not primarily built for their ACS, but instead their entertainment through game mechanics, stories, and achievement. Obviously, some games rely more heavily on communication tools than others, but the FCC has agreed with the argument and given multiple time-to-implementation waivers to the industry since the CVAA was established.
As mentioned, the FCC has granted multiple waivers for gaming, but in the document covering this latest waiver extension for December 31, 2017, the FCC does seem mindful of both sides of the coin. On one end, most games and their marketing still stick to the gameplay over communication aspects on an average, as well as some successful efforts being made in accessibility throughout the last few years. On the other hand, not all gaming systems, services, and software are yet accessible to the warranted standards, as well as that “it appears that little progress has been made with respect to making the ACS functions in video game software accessible to persons with disabilities.” As such, the FCC is requiring a June 30th, 2017 checkpoint in which the ESA is required to provide detailed, specific challenges and milestones for resolution topics covering the marketing of ACS features, technical hurdles and the efforts being made to handle them, and specific plans on how the ESA will continue to reach out and consult with members of the disability community on this topic.
Find the whole FCC document on this waiver extension here or by looking up Document Number DA-16-1449 at FCC.gov.