The CVAA: What it means for the games industry

Ringing in the New Year not only brought new year’s resolutions, but it also gave effect to the CVAA in the video game industry.

What is the CVAA?

The CVAA (21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act 2010) sets forth accessibility requirements for all advanced communications services. This includes advanced communications services for game software, distribution networks, consoles and support channels. Although the act has been in effect for several years, the video game industry had obtained several waivers. The last waiver expired December 31, 2018 and was not renewed.

So, what does this mean for the video game industry?

First and foremost, the CVAA does not require accessible gaming, it requires communication services in games to be accessible. If people communicate with each other, then it’s covered. This spans games on mobile, PC and consoles. Providers and manufacturers must make their products accessible, unless it is not achievable within reasonable effort and expense.  Accessibility can be achieved through a third-party feature, as long as it is accessible to the consumers and available for no charge or a nominal charge. In addition to the communication services, the navigation features that allow people to get to the communication services are also covered such as the menus or options that lead to the communication. Support channels are also covered under the CVAA.

What does the CVAA require?

The CVAA requires communications services to be accessible for varying conditions including but not limited to no sight to no color vision, no speech to limited strength. Accessibility must be considered from the early stages of development. Manufacturers or providers are required to involve people with disabilities in some way in the design or testing process. The CVAA also requires record-keeping of efforts to comply with the act – engagement with people with disabilities and annual certifications be filed with the FCC.  Each communication service that’s provided must meet all the requirements.

Is this achievable?

To determine achievability four factors are considered:

  1. The nature and costs of the steps needed to achieve accessibility or compatibility
  2. The economic and technical impact on operations of manufacturers or providers and the specific equipment or service in question.
    • Does this fundamentally alter a nature or service of product?
  3. The types of operations of manufactures or provider
  4. The extent to which the manufacturer or provider offers accessible equipment or services containing varying degrees of services at varying prices

Due to the advances in technology, it is likely that in most cases accessibility will be considered achievable.

At this time, all games are required to be compliant. However, content released prior to January 1, 2019, is considered grandfathered and does not have to be CVAA compliant. Small changes to grandfathered content is not required to be CVAA complaint, but major changes after January 1, 2019, are required to be CVAA compliant.

For record-keeping and the design phase, what needs to be known?

Record-keeping is a major requirement under the CVAA. Annual certifications are required to be filed with the FCC describing recordkeeping related to accessibility (note at the time of this publication, this link is broken due to the ongoing government shutdown). Records related to accessibility features, disability types and engagement with disabled gamers should be kept. The CVAA also requires that accessibility be considered in the design phase.  

Accessibility features can open the gaming world to more players and in turn allow more people to play a game.  To ensure you are compliant with the CVAA, contact us.