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H.R. 4533 (111th): Technology Bill of Rights for the Blind Act of 2010


The text of the bill below is as of Jan 27, 2010 (Introduced). The bill was not enacted into law.


I

111th CONGRESS

2d Session

H. R. 4533

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

January 27, 2010

introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce

A BILL

To provide for a study and report on access by blind consumers to certain electronic devices and to provide for the establishment of minimum nonvisual access standards for such devices and for the establishment of an office within the Department of Commerce to enforce such standards, and for other purposes.

1.

Short title

This Act may be cited as the Technology Bill of Rights for the Blind Act of 2010.

2.

Findings

Congress finds the following:

(1)

Rapid advances in microchip and digital technology have led to increasingly complex user interfaces for everyday products like consumer electronic devices, home appliances, and office technology devices. Many new devices in these categories require user interaction with visual displays, on-screen menus, touch screens, and other interfaces that are inaccessible to blind or low-vision individuals. Rarely, for example, are settings on televisions, home stereo systems, or dishwashers controlled by knobs, switches, or buttons that can be readily identified and whose settings can be easily discerned with or without the addition of tactile markings by the consumer.

(2)

The use of inaccessible interfaces on office equipment such as copiers and fax machines makes these devices unusable by the blind, and many office software packages are either substantially or totally inaccessible to blind people who use assistive technology. This lack of access is a potential threat to a blind person’s existing job and a barrier to obtaining a new job.

(3)

Increasingly, electronic kiosks are being used to sell consumer goods and services, including tickets for public transit and air transportation, and to provide important public information. If a kiosk is not accessible in a nonvisual manner, a blind person has no way to make a purchase, check in for a flight, or access important public information.

(4)

This growing threat to the independence and productivity of blind people is unnecessary because electronic devices can easily be constructed with user interfaces that are not exclusively visual. Text-to-speech technology has become inexpensive and is in wider use than ever before. It is used in everything from automated telephone systems to weather broadcasts by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Additionally, office software can be designed to work with screen access technology used by the blind at little or no extra cost as long as such compatibility is taken into consideration at the beginning of the design process.

(5)

Some manufacturers have incorporated nonvisual technology into their products by creating talking menus or enabling them to articulate the content on the display, a practice that makes such products more usable by all consumers, whether blind or sighted. For example, Apple, Inc., has incorporated innovative nonvisual interfaces into the latest versions of its iPhone and iPod product lines.

(6)

There is no reason why all manufacturers cannot produce electronic devices fully accessible to blind and low-vision individuals.

(7)

Text-to-speech technology is not the only mechanism by which consumer electronic devices, electronic kiosks, home appliances, and office technology devices can be made accessible to blind and low-vision individuals. In some cases, tactile markings or audible tones may be sufficient to make such devices fully accessible.

(8)

Blind and low-vision individuals should be able to obtain and operate consumer electronic devices, electronic kiosks, home appliances, and office technology devices with the same ease as those with normal vision.

3.

Study and report on access to covered devices by blind consumers

(a)

In general

The Secretary shall conduct a study on methods by which blind consumers can gain nonvisual access to covered devices.

(b)

Research and consultation

In conducting the study required by subsection (a), the Secretary shall—

(1)

review all available research on methods by which blind consumers can gain nonvisual access to covered devices;

(2)

commission such additional research as the Secretary considers necessary;

(3)

consult with groups representing blind consumers; and

(4)

consult with manufacturers of covered devices and organizations that represent such manufacturers.

(c)

Report

Not later than 2 years after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall submit to Congress a report on the findings of the study required by subsection (a).

4.

Minimum nonvisual access standards for covered devices

(a)

In general

Not later than 180 days after the submission of the report under section 3(c), the Secretary shall promulgate a minimum nonvisual access standard for each type of covered device that will ensure nonvisual access to such respective type of device by blind consumers.

(b)

Effective date

A minimum nonvisual access standard shall apply to a covered device that is manufactured after the date that is 2 years after the date on which such standard is promulgated.

5.

Office of Nonvisual Access Compliance

(a)

Establishment

As soon as practicable but not later than 2 years after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall establish an Office of Nonvisual Access Compliance. The head of the Office shall be the Director of the Office of Nonvisual Access Compliance.

(b)

Powers and duties

(1)

Assistance to Secretary

The Director and appropriate staff of the Office shall assist the Secretary in—

(A)

conducting the study required by section 3(a) and preparing the report required by section 3(c) (if the Director and staff have been appointed by the time period involved); and

(B)

developing the minimum nonvisual access standards.

(2)

Education of manufacturers

The Secretary, acting through the Director, shall educate manufacturers of covered devices about the minimum nonvisual access standards and compliance with such standards.

(3)

Investigations

(A)

Complaints

The Secretary, acting through the Director, shall investigate each complaint that a covered device does not comply with a minimum nonvisual access standard applicable to such covered device and shall determine whether such covered device complies with such minimum nonvisual access standard.

(B)

Initiation by Office

In addition to investigations under subparagraph (A), the Secretary, acting through the Director, may conduct such other investigations as the Secretary, acting through the Director, considers appropriate to ensure compliance with the minimum nonvisual access standards.

(4)

Enforcement

(A)

In general

If the Secretary, acting through the Director, determines that a manufacturer has manufactured for sale or offered for sale a covered device that does not comply with a minimum nonvisual access standard applicable to such covered device, the Secretary, acting through the Director, shall take enforcement action under subparagraph (B) or (C).

(B)

Notice and opportunity to correct violation; civil penalty

(i)

Notice and opportunity to correct violation

Upon making the determination described in subparagraph (A) and unless the Secretary, acting through the Director, takes the action described in subparagraph (C), the Secretary, acting through the Director, shall notify the manufacturer involved of the violation and the time period within which such violation must be corrected in order to avoid a civil monetary penalty, if any.

(ii)

Civil penalty

If the notice given under clause (i) includes a time period within which the violation must be corrected and the manufacturer has not corrected the violation within such time period, the Secretary, acting through the Director, may assess a civil monetary penalty against such manufacturer in an amount that is not less than 10 percent of the retail value of the covered device involved for each noncompliant unit of such covered device manufactured.

(C)

Immediate civil penalty

Upon making the determination described in subparagraph (A), the Secretary, acting through the Director, may, in an appropriate case, without first providing the manufacturer involved with notice and an opportunity to correct the violation under subparagraph (B), assess a civil monetary penalty against such manufacturer in an amount that is not less than 10 percent of the retail value of the covered device involved for each noncompliant unit of such covered device manufactured.

6.

Private right of action

(a)

In general

A blind consumer who has an encounter with a covered device that does not comply with a minimum nonvisual access standard applicable to such covered device may, after notifying the Office of such encounter, commence a civil action against the manufacturer of such covered device not later than 180 days after such encounter.

(b)

Relief

If the court in a civil action commenced under subsection (a) determines that the covered device involved is in violation of a minimum nonvisual access standard, the court may grant the following relief:

(1)

Monetary damages in an amount equal to the greater of—

(A)

$10,000 per encounter per unit of such covered device; or

(B)

in the case of a blind consumer who loses an employment opportunity because of an encounter with an office technology device that does not comply with a minimum nonvisual access standard applicable to such office technology device, the value of such employment opportunity.

(2)

Such equitable relief as the court considers appropriate, including temporary, preliminary, and permanent injunctive relief.

(3)

Reasonable attorneys’ fees.

(4)

In the case of willful or repeated violations by the manufacturer, punitive damages.

7.

Rule of construction

Nothing in this Act shall be construed to limit the rights of blind or low-vision individuals under other law.

8.

Definitions

In this Act, the following definitions apply:

(1)

Blind consumer

The term blind consumer means an individual whose vision—

(A)

is 20/200 or less in the best corrected eye;

(B)

subtends an angle of not greater than 20 degrees in the best corrected eye; or

(C)

is such that the individual cannot use a covered device without some form of nonvisual assistance.

(2)

Consumer electronic device

The term consumer electronic device means an electronic device designed primarily for use by the ultimate consumer.

(3)

Covered device

The term covered device means a consumer electronic device, electronic kiosk, home appliance, or office technology device that is manufactured for sale in the United States after the date that is 2 years after the date of the promulgation of a minimum nonvisual access standard applicable to such consumer electronic device, electronic kiosk, home appliance, or office technology device.

(4)

Director

The term Director means the Director of the Office of Nonvisual Access Compliance.

(5)

Electronic kiosk

The term electronic kiosk means an electronic device with an interactive user interface that is designed to—

(A)

sell consumer goods and services, including passage on transportation, to the public; or

(B)

convey information to the public.

(6)

Encounter

The term encounter means—

(A)

with respect to a consumer electronic device or home appliance, the purchase or use or attempted use of such item by a blind consumer; and

(B)

with respect to an electronic kiosk or office technology device, the use or attempted use of such electronic kiosk or office technology device by a blind consumer.

(7)

Home appliance

The term home appliance means an electric appliance that is designed for use in a residential setting.

(8)

Minimum nonvisual access standard

The term minimum nonvisual access standard means a minimum nonvisual access standard promulgated under section 4(a).

(9)

Nonvisual access

The term nonvisual access means the ability of an individual to use all functions of a device without reliance on eyesight.

(10)

Office

The term Office means the Office of Nonvisual Access Compliance established under section 5(a).

(11)

Office technology device

The term office technology device means an electric device or computer software application that is designed for use in an office setting.

(12)

Secretary

The term Secretary means the Secretary of Commerce.