In an Order released on Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted the Coalition of E-Reader Manufacturers (Coalition) a temporary waiver (until Jan. 28, 2014) of its rule requiring advanced communications services (ACS) and equipment introduced or upgraded after Oct. 8, 2013 to be accessible to persons with disabilities for a defined class of e-reader equipment. The FCC’s rules require, among other things, that ACS be operable without vision. To view our prior ACS news update, click here.
FCC rules state that the FCC may waive the accessibility requirements for ACS, individually or as a class, upon petition, where ACS “is designed for multiple purposes, but is designed primarily for purposes other than using advanced communications services.” Among other things, the Coalition argued that while the E-Readers for which waivers were sought were capable of accessing ACS, they are designed and marketed primarily for the purpose of reading written material, and ACS is neither a primary or co-primary purpose of the equipment.
A large number of commenters opposed the Coalition’s request for a waiver, including the National Federation of the Blind together with 23 other consumer organizations, and over 150 individuals. Commenters objected on the grounds that e-readers are commonly used to access ACS, including the electronic messaging functions of social media. The FCC did not decide the merits of the petition but instead stated it would consider the merits during the temporary waiver period. Notably, the FCC did not waive its rules requiring covered entities to take accessibility into account in the design and development of ACS, in effect since Jan. 1, 2012, nor did it waive its record keeping requirements, which have been in effect since Jan. 1, 2013.