Access Board ICT Refresh Update

In the years following initial promulgation of the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines, technology continued to evolve at a rapid pace. Pursuant to the statutory mandate, the United States Access Board deemed it necessary and appropriate to review and update the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines in order to make them consistent with one another and reflective of technological changes. The Access Board formed the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee in 2006 to review the existing 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines and recommend amendments. The Advisory Committee’s forty-one members comprised a broad cross-section of stakeholders representing industry, disability groups, and government agencies. The Advisory Committee also included representatives from the European Commission, Canada, Australia, and Japan. The Advisory Committee recognized the importance of standardization across markets worldwide and coordinated its work with standard-setting bodies in the U.S. and abroad, such as the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C®), and with the European Commission. The Advisory Committee addressed a range of issues, including new or convergent technologies, market forces, and international harmonization.

On April 3, 2008, the Advisory Committee presented with its report recommending amendments to the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines.

The proposed standards replace the current product-based approach with a functionality-based approach. The four major changes in proposed section 508 are

  • Broad adoption of WCAG 2.0: WAI WCAG 2.0 will be used as formal standard for making web content accessible for individuals with disabilities. WCAG 2.0 standards will not be only be adopted by web content but also to other web based electronic documents and software such as word processing documents, portable document formats, project management software etc.
  • Delineation of covered electronic “content”: This proposed section 508 update specify that all the public facing electronic information as well as 8 enumerated categories of non-public facing content that communicate agency official business should be accessible. By providing a clarity on the scope of agency content that falls under section 508, the federal agencies electronic content will be more consistently accessible.
  • Expanded interoperability requirements: The proposed Section 508 rule would provide more specificity about how operating systems, software development toolkits, and software applications should interact with assistive technology. These proposed requirements would allow assistive technology users to take full advantage of the functionalities that ICT products provide.
  • Requirement for RTT functionality: The proposed standards would require real-time text (RTT) functionality wherever an ICT product provides real-time, two-way voice communication. RTT is defined in the proposed rule as text that is transmitted character by character as it is being typed. An RTT recipient can read a message while it is being written, without waiting for the message to be completed; this is different from other message technologies such as “short messaging service”, or SMS, which transmit the entire message only after typing is complete.

About the ICT refresh (single file version) provide you with the Complete information on proposed rule-making.

Public comments on the rule, as well as on a preliminary assessment of its estimated costs and benefits, are due on or before May 28, 2015. The Board also had a public hearings on the rule in San Diego on March 5 and in Washington, DC on March 11. In addition, the Board will conduct a public webinar to review the proposal on March 31.

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