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Resolution 2020-05: Regarding Equal Access to News and Information in the State of California

WHEREAS, equal access to current news and information is critically important for everyone in the twenty-first century, and this is no less true for the blind; and

WHEREAS, the current COVID-19 pandemic has only increased and accentuated the urgent need for equal access to timely and accessible information; and

WHEREAS, the pandemic has also acutely demonstrated the need for accessible infographics, tables, charts, and other image-based or graphical formats in the presentation of news and information in the state of California; and

WHEREAS, inaccessibility is a problem across news and media platforms: for example, many California news websites and apps contain significant accessibility barriers; streaming services have widely varying degrees of accessibility; and television newscasts do not include any audio description, not even to identify speakers and interviewees, which could easily be accomplished using available text-to-speech technology; and

WHEREAS, while federal regulations have done much good by establishing a system for the uniform provision of emergency weather information to the blind over broadcast television channels, consideration of further measures to increase the accessibility of news and current information in California is warranted, including to expand access for Deafblind consumers; and

WHEREAS, the vast majority of news and other mass media in the United States is produced, controlled, and/or distributed by a relatively small number of large media conglomerates owning multiple media outlets (e.g., National Amusements, Disney, News Corp., Time Warner, Comcast, Bloomberg, Fox, Sony, Hearst, Scripps, Sinclair), each of which owns properties across multiple platforms and each of which has the resources to develop and implement a comprehensive accessibility policy across its outlet; and

WHEREAS, leaders in the news and mass media industries in the state of California, by implementing well-thought-out accessibility policies and practices, would set an example for the many independent and startup mass media companies now proliferating: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of California, in Convention assembled this twenty-fifth day of October, 2020, that this organization call upon all major media companies in the state of California to develop and implement cross-platform accessibility strategies including web and mobile app accessibility, audio description, and other components designed to make news and information fully and equally accessible to blind and Deafblind consumers; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon the Federal Communications Commission to consider expanding requirements for media access, particularly in the area of broadcast and cable television, with the goal of making news and information more accessible to the blind and Deafblind communities.

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