6.0 COMPLIANCE AND COORDINATION

6.1. COMPLIANCE AND COORDINATION OVERVIEW

The committee was unable to reach consensus on this introductory section due to time constraints. Some committee members believed this section should be characterized as the following:

This section describes the compliance and coordination partnership which is recommended by the committee for guiding the access requirements of section 255. Some components of the structure are not in existence at this time. Others are only now being initiated. For this reason this section is as much a roadmap to the future as it is a system for judging compliance.

The compliance system presented in this document, and more specifically in this section requires and relies upon a coordinated partnership between industry and individuals with disabilities. Specifically it requires a system which facilitates effective partnering throughout all stages of the process, including development of guidelines, standards, product design and development, verification of accessibility, complaint investigation, and market monitoring. In order to succeed, this system requires the good faith support of these parties. In keeping with this understanding, this section is written with an assumption of reasonableness and balance from all parties. Any interpretations that may be made which are clearly unbalanced and consistently prejudicial to any interest are not intended.

The section describes three mechanisms for controlling and assessing compliance. At the first and highest level are the guidelines developed by the Access Board. These provide the overall direction for this effort. Supporting the guidelines are access related consensus standards developed by standards setting bodies. Where they are appropriate and available, these documents provide specific technical guidance for important parts of the compliance assessment. Standards often serve to document standard test methodologies, compatibility requirements and at times to provide technical guidance to established practice. The third level, found in section 6.4, is expert opinion, fostered by an ongoing dialogue between consumer and industry representative.

Rationale: This section proposes that the optimum structure for the development of telecommunications access is a mix of public and private sector initiatives. A variety of such models exist today throughout the government. One example is the FCC's handling of the issue of TV interference. In the early 1980s, the FCC was given regulatory authority in this area. However, it implemented that authority by working with a private sector standard setting body to write the required technical standards. In parallel with this effort, dialogue with the affected manufacturers resulted in voluntary inclusion of the required suppression circuitry in most TV sets. The FCC continues to actively monitor the issue to assure that the public interest is being served. In that not all of the components described in this section are currently sufficiently developed, it is implied, and at times stated, that the Access Board and FCC will work with the appropriate parties to develop these components. The agencies should monitor the development of these components, and to the extent that some components do not develop as envisioned, the Access Board should expeditiously review the compliance and coordination model, and may change it sooner than the recommended five-year review.

However, the committee believes that the structure envisioned is quite realistic. Indeed it is heartening to note that since the inception of the TAAC, the National Association of Radio and Telecommunications Engineers (NARTE) has initiated an Association of Access Engineers and Specialists. It is hoped that this new organization, working in close cooperation with other interested organizations, such as RESNA (Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America), TIA (Telecommunications Industry Association), IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), EIF (Electronic Industries Foundation), RERC (Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers), and others will provide many of the services called for in section 6.4.

Other committee members believed this section should be characterized as the following:

This section describes the committee's recommendation for a framework for coordination among manufacturers and consumers to identify access needs and solutions to those needs, ensuring compliance with the requirements of section 255, and encouraging the prompt, informal resolution of complaints about the accessibility of telecommunications and customer premises equipment. The principal elements comprising this framework are:

  1. these guidelines;
  2. the anticipated development, when and where appropriate, of consensus standards for telecommunications accessibility by standards setting bodies;
  3. a coordination point to facilitate the exchange of information about access needs and solution among manufacturers and consumers;
  4. manufacturers' verification of the readily achievable accessibility and usability of their equipment and supplying a declaration of conformity of adherence to the Access Board and FCC guidelines for determining whether accessibility, usability, or compatibility is readily achievable; and
  5. alternate approaches to inquiries and complaints that encourage manufacturers to provide consumers information about the accessibility features of their products and consumers to express informally their concerns about a product's accessibility prior to complaining to the FCC.

Rationale: The framework described in this section relies heavily on private sector initiatives and cooperation among manufacturers and individuals with disabilities and organizations advocating for their interests to foster the development of those elements of the framework that are in the early stages of development. For example, the National Association of Radio and Telecommunications Engineers (NARTE) has initiated an Association of Access Engineers and Specialists. This new organization, and others that may be established, in cooperation with other existing organizations like the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), the Electronic Industries Foundation (EIF), and the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers (RERC), could provide many of the contact point functions described in section 6.4. It is expected that the FCC and Access Board will encourage the development of the cooperative elements of this framework and monitor and evaluate the progress of their development and take further action if appropriate.

6.2. ACCESS BOARD GUIDELINES6.2.1. Reauthorization of Guidelines.

The Access Board shall review and reauthorize these guidelines at a maximum interval of five years, incorporating input from representatives of industry, individuals with a wide range of disabilities and organizations which represent the needs of individuals with disabilities, academic and research specialists in the area of access engineering, the FCC, and input from the annual market monitoring report.

6.3. CONSENSUS STANDARDS6.3.1. Development of Standards.

Where standards are appropriate, the Access Board and FCC should work in conjunction with standards setting bodies, including consortia, to encourage the development of and where appropriate, officially recognize consensus standards developed for telecommunications accessibility. This process shall incorporate input from individuals with a wide range of disabilities and organizations which represent the needs of individuals with disabilities. Examples of areas in which standards would be useful are: to provide objective evaluation and test methods, provide for standardized user interfaces, provide for compatibility between CPE and SCPE and others. The utmost care should be exercised to assure that these standards do not hinder innovation and technological development, but rather work in concert with innovation.

6.3.2. Refreshment of Standards.

In order to receive official recognition of a consensus standard, developed for telecommunications accessibility, the standard setting body sponsoring the standard should review and refresh it every five years or more frequently, if needed.

6.3.3. Coordination of Standards.

Industry should coordinate the development of accessibility standards with officially recognized standard setting bodies such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) wherever appropriate.

6.3.4. International Harmonization.

Industry should promote harmonization of accessibility standards with international bodies such as the International Standards Organization (ISO) or the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) wherever appropriate.

6.4. COORDINATION POINT6.4.1. Establishment of Coordination Point.

The model described in section 6 relies heavily on the presence of an organization or organizations to provide effective and efficient communications and feedback for the implementation of telecommunications access. Such a "coordination point" might be a sub-society of an existing engineering society, governed by its own board comprised of industry representatives, individuals with disabilities, representatives of organizations which represent the needs of individuals with disabilities, and academic and research specialists in the area of access. If a coordination point or points is established, the FCC and Access Board are encouraged to support and assist, as appropriate, the development of such organizations to serve the purposes listed in this section. If such organizations do not develop as required in this model, the Access Board and FCC shall as expeditiously as possible review the model and change it if appropriate.

Rationale: The industry members of the TAAC have argued that many aspects of the effort to provide telecommunications access will be most effectively and efficiently provided through private sector initiative. This section assumes that the monetary savings and the administrative simplicity of a Declaration of Conformity system will provide sufficient motivation for the creation and support of the initiative described in this section. The committee observes with great interest the development of an accessible design society sponsored by NARTE. The committee encourages the Access Board and FCC to monitor the development of this, or other similar efforts, and to the degree they appropriately fulfill the functions described in this section, utilize these initiatives. Should initiatives such as these fail, other kinds of solutions will be required.

6.4.2. Participation of Individuals with Disabilities.

The coordination point should facilitate participation of individuals and organizations representing the needs of individuals with disabilities by ensuring accessibility of events and accommodations such as communication access and alternative formats for materials, and by supporting attendance and participation in training by individuals with disabilities through sponsorships.

6.4.3. Access Engineering Specialist Training.

The coordination point could facilitate the development of appropriate curricula through entities such as universities and trade associations, and should ensure provision of training on access needs and strategies to access specialists, in conjunction with training provided to individuals with disabilities.

6.4.4. Disability Representatives Training.

The coordination point should facilitate the development of appropriate curricula and should provide on-going training on fundamentals of telecommunications and access to individuals with disabilities and representatives of organizations representing the needs of individuals with disabilities, in conjunction with training provided to access specialists.

6.4.5. Access Specialist Certification.

The coordination point should support the development of a certification process for access specialists. Such a certification process should contain provisions for annual updating of access specialist training to ensure that practitioners are current with the state-of-the-art.

6.4.6. Presentation of Access Needs and Strategies.

The coordination point could host an annual symposium with technical sessions to provide a forum for presentation of papers and research results on access engineering. This annual symposium could also receive and review the annual marketing monitoring report from the Access Board to identify key areas of need in access for the coming year.

6.4.7. Input into Guidelines.

The coordination point may, if requested, provide industry and disability input into periodic refreshment of the Access Board guidelines.

6.4.8. Input into Standards.

The coordination point could, if requested, provide industry and disability input into the development, refreshment, coordination and international harmonization of standards.

6.4.9. Industry/Disability Advisory Panel to the FCC.

The coordination point could, if requested, convene and maintain an advisory panel comprised of industry representatives, individuals with disabilities and representatives of organizations representing the needs of individuals with disabilities, to provide opinion, at the FCC's request, on inquiries and complaints which have been submitted to the FCC.

6.4.10. Research.

The coordination point could identify areas of access needs where research and development are in demand and sponsor research in those areas.

6.4.11. Recognition for Access Innovation.

The coordination point could establish an awards program for access innovations to stimulate industry efforts in this area.

6.5. ACCESS VERIFICATION6.5.1. Verification of Accessibility, Usability, and Compatibility.

Manufacturers shall verify readily achievable accessibility and usability of products, and compatibility of products with existing peripherals and specialized CPE where access and usability is not readily achievable, through:

  1. Utilization of the expert opinion of qualified access specialists, when other methods are not available for a given application; or
  2. Whenever possible, using standard tests where available and recommended testing approaches where standard tests are unavailable. It is strongly recommended that such testing be supervised by a qualified access specialist; or
  3. Use of standardized methods and techniques, where such methods have been validated for the intended application; or
  4. Utilization of certified access testing laboratories where available.

The terms standard and standardized in items 2 and 3, above, refer to tests, methods and techniques which are documented in consensus standards, developed by recognized standards settings bodies and recognized as being appropriate by the Access Board and FCC, as provided for in section 6.3.1.

6.5.2. Use of Qualified Access Specialists.

When utilizing the verification methods of expert opinion or standard tests, manufacturers should use qualified access specialists to supervise the verification and, as appropriate, in implementing process and performance plans throughout product design and development.

6.5.3. Documentation.

Note: Consensus was not reached on the use of shall or should on this item. [Should/shall] is therefore used in the following paragraph.

Manufacturers [should/shall] document accessibility design decisions, whether or not access solutions are found to be readily achievable. Documentation sufficient to show compliance with the accessibility requirements of section 255 [should/shall] be retained.

6.5.4. Certification of Access Testing Laboratories.

The Access Board, in cooperation with recognized laboratory accrediting agencies, should promote the development of a certification process for access testing laboratories.

6.6. DECLARATION OF CONFORMITY6.6.1. Issuing Declaration of Conformity.

For all telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment, the manufacturer shall supply with the product, at the time of marketing or importation, a declaration of conformity (DOC) with section 255.

Rationale: The declaration represents a manufacturer's self-evaluation of adherence to Access Board and/or FCC evolving guidelines in determining whether accessibility and usability of a product by individuals with disabilities is readily achievable, or to the extent that accessibility and usability is not readily achievable, compatibility of the product with existing peripheral devices or specialized customer premises equipment commonly used by individuals with disabilities is readily achievable for the given product.

The DOC is relatively brief (see 6.6.3, 6.6.4), and because it provides no information about the accessibility or compatibility features of the particular product, it cannot replace the provision of useful consumer information, as covered in sections 4.4, 4.6, 4.10, and other places in this report.

If standards concerning appropriate methods of evaluation and verification of accessibility are developed by standards setting bodies as described in section 6.3, whether or not formally adopted by the Access Board or the FCC, it is expected that these methods will be used by manufacturers in evaluating and verifying accessibility and compatibility.

6.6.2. Location of Declaration of Conformity.

The DOC shall be included as a separate sheet or other medium in the product box, or located within a user's manual in such a way that the user may quickly find the declaration itself, or an accessible visual, auditory, or tactile prompt to its location.

Rationale: The DOC, which includes contact information, must be easily locatable by individuals who customarily use alternate formats, in order that they may contact the manufacturer's point of contact to request alternate formats of the product literature including the user manual. Some manufacturers may choose to provide with the product a declaration alternatively formatted for the individuals with particular disabilities for whom the product is designed, developed, and fabricated.

6.6.3. Contents of Declaration of Conformity.

The declaration of conformity shall include the following:

  1. A brief statement of the purpose of section 255 (see 6.6.4);
  2. Identification of the product, e.g., name and model number;
  3. A statement of product conformity (see 6.6.5);
  4. Information on how to contact the manufacturer's responsible party (see 4.10.1).

6.6.4. Text of Declaration of Conformity.

Section 255 requires manufacturers to design, develop, and fabricate telecommunications products to be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities if readily achievable. When accessibility and usability is not readily achievable, such products must be compatible with peripheral devices commonly used by individuals with disabilities, if that is readily achievable. The TAAC urges the FCC to adopt a consistent content and format for a declaration of conformity to reduce confusion by both consumers and manufacturers as to the specific requirement.

Some committee members believed that the declaration of conformity should contain the following language:

This product complies with section 255 of the Communications Act. This means that the manufacturer [or enter name of manufacturer] considered access and use by individuals with disabilities during product design, development, and fabrication. The manufacturer [or insert name of manufacturer] incorporated accessibility or compatibility to the extent that it was readily achievable to do so. The resulting product may not be completely accessible to each and every type and degree of disability, or compatible with any particular specialized customer premises equipment or peripheral devices commonly used by individuals with disabilities.

For further information about the accessibility or compatibility features of this product, product documentation in alternate formats, or other questions about accessibility matters, please contact our Accessibility Coordinator. [Provide contact address information, see section 4.10.1]

Rationale: This text conveys the disability access requirements and readily achievable limitation contained in section 255 and clarifies that compliance with section 255 does not necessarily mean that access or compatibility is readily achievable for all or any specific disability or specialized equipment used by individuals with disabilities. This formulation avoids troubling language in the proposal below which would likely lead consumers to believe that disability access is not necessarily required by section 255.

Other committee members believed the statement should contain the following:

This product complies with section 255 of the Communications Act. This means that the manufacturer [or enter name of manufacturer] considered access and use by individuals with disabilities during product design, development, and fabrication and incorporated accessibility or compatibility features to the extent that it was readily achievable to do so. It does not mean that the product necessarily is, or is required to be, accessible to or usable by an individual with any particular type or degree of disability or compatible with any specific peripheral device.

For further information about the accessibility or compatibility features of this product, product documentation in alternate formats, or other questions about accessibility matters, please contact our Accessibility Coordinator. [Provide contact address information, see section 4.10.1]

Rationale: Without the qualifications reflected in the third sentence, purchasers of its products could be misled by the statement about the extent to which the product incorporates accessibility features or about the extent of the manufacturer's obligation to do so. This language has the virtue of bluntness. The more blunt the statement, the less likely consumers will be misled by the statement and the less likely manufacturers and consumer advocates will be blamed for misunderstandings.

6.7. INQUIRIES AND COMPLAINTS6.7.1. Manufacturer's Point of Contact.

As required in section 4.10, manufacturers shall establish and maintain a point of contact to assist customers regarding access features. The equipment manufacturer should be the initial and, it is hoped, primary resolver of consumer inquiries and complaints. When a manufacturer cannot adequately meet a consumer's needs they are required in section 4.10.3 to deliver the material described in 6.7.2 to the consumer.

6.7.2. Consumer Information.

The Access Board shall develop material which gives consumer information regarding telecommunications access. This material is intended to provide a bridge for a consumer to the best telecommunications access information available. This material should provide points of contact for help with the needs of specific disabilities. It should also assist the consumer by providing information sources on available adaptive devices. Equipment manufacturers who are unable to fully meet a consumer's needs are required to give them the information in section 4.10.3.

6.7.3. FCC Point of Contact.

The FCC should maintain a point of contact for individuals with disabilities, and manufacturers for receipt of inquiries and complaints regarding accessibility of telecommunications equipment and CPE, and publish this FCC point of contact in the Federal Register.

6.7.4. FCC Review of Complaints.6.7.4.1 Informal Resolution.

FCC policies with respect to complaints about the accessibility of telecommunications or customer premises equipment should:

(a) encourage consumers to express informally their concerns or grievances about a product to the manufacturer or supplier who brought the product to market before complaining to the FCC; and

(b) encourage manufacturers to respond within 30 days to consumer concerns or grievances about the accessibility of their products with information or actions sufficient to resolve the concerns.

6.7.4.2 Referral of Inquiries.

If the manufacturer has issued a declaration of conformity, individuals with disabilities are encouraged to make inquiries to the manufacturer regarding product features relating to accessibility and compatibility, before bringing a complaint to the FCC. When a complaint is made to the FCC, the FCC should determine whether the complainant has discussed concerns and grievances with the manufacturer but was unable to satisfactorily resolve the complaint. If the complainant has not conducted any such discussions, the FCC should encourage the complainant to contact the manufacturer for this purpose or the FCC should take such action as it deems appropriate to assist the complainant to resolve the complaint informally.

6.7.4.3 Implementation.

The Access Board and/or the FCC should allow adequate time for manufacturers to reflect these guidelines in their processes for designing, developing, fabricating and delivering telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment.

6.7.4.4 Significance of Declaration of Conformity.

While the committee reached consensus on the use of a declaration of conformity, it could not agree on the weight such a declaration should be given by the FCC in dealing with complaints.

Some committee members believed that the DOC should be given the following consideration:

A manufacturer responding to a complaint should be presumed to have complied with section 255 if the manufacturer:

(a) Demonstrates adherence to section 255 guidelines, including any recognized good practices associated with design, development, and fabrication that may be associated with such guidelines; and

(b) Supplies a declaration of conformity as provided in section 6.6; or

(c) Demonstrates that one or more of the manufacturer's other products or product options provides a satisfactory substitute for the challenged product, through reasonably comparable features, prices and availability.

Where the FCC finds that a manufacturer has not complied with section 255, punitive measures should be avoided if the manufacturer has documented good-faith efforts to follow section 255 guidelines and any related good practices; instead, the FCC may require the manufacturer to address the lack of accessibility, usability, or compatibility.

Rationale: The only significant difference in the two versions, is in section 6.7.4.4(c), which allows the availability of an accessible or compatible equipment alternative to create a presumption of compliance. Since the effect is only presumptive, the complainant may still prevail by offering evidence sufficient to overcome the presumption.

Other committee members felt the DOC should be given the following consideration:

In determining whether a manufacturer has complied with section 255 with respect to a particular product, the FCC shall give considerable weight to the extent to which the manufacturer undertook good faith efforts to comply with the guidelines implementing section 255.

Where the FCC finds that a manufacturer's product does not comply with section 255, punitive measures should be avoided if the manufacturer has documented good faith efforts to fully and adequately follow section 255 guidelines, or, if one or more of the manufacturer's other products or product options, having comparable features, functions, price, and availability, provides a satisfactory substitute for the accessibility and usability, or compatibility which may be lacking in the product which is the subject of a complaint. The FCC may require the manufacturer to address the lack of accessibility, usability, or compatibility in the product which is the subject of a complaint if it finds that it would have been readily achievable to have designed, developed or fabricated the product to be accessible and usable or compatible.

Rationale: In attempting to determine the compliance of a telecommunications product with section 255, it is proper for the FCC to carefully consider a manufacturer's good faith efforts to comply with the guidelines implementing section 255. However, a "blanket" presumption of compliance cannot be accorded inasmuch as the FCC may determine that the disability access efforts were not sufficient, even though the efforts were carried out in good faith. Furthermore, section 255 does not provide the FCC with the authority to make a finding of compliance based on substitute or comparable products. The law is clear in its application to all covered products. However, it is reasonable for the FCC to mitigate penalties against a manufacturer who can demonstrate compliance with the guidelines implementing section 255 or who can show that an equivalent product is available as a substitute for a product which is inaccessible. The FCC is expected to determine the extent to which accessibility and usability or compatibility was readily achievable for the product and to require the manufacturer to take steps to resolve the inaccessibility.

6.7.4.5 Review of Manufacturer's Documentation by FCC.

In considering whether a manufacturer has demonstrated adherence to the section 255 guidelines with respect to a particular product, the FCC shall consider:

  1. The extent to which the manufacturer undertook good faith efforts to achieve accessibility and usability during the product design, development, fabrication, and delivery of that product, and
  2. In the case where accessibility and usability was not readily achievable, the extent to which the manufacturer undertook good faith efforts to achieve compatibility during the design development, fabrication and delivery of that product.

For the purpose of making the above consideration, the FCC may request from the manufacturer documentation on:

  1. The good faith efforts undertaken by the company to achieve access or compatibility and
  2. Alternatives considered during the design process to achieve accessibility and compatibility.

6.7.5. FCC Discretionary Use of Industry/Disability Advisory Panel.

The FCC may at its discretion refer inquiries and complaints to a joint industry/disability advisory panel for opinion.

6.7.6. FCC Selection of Measures in Instances of Non-Compliance.

In selection of measures, the FCC may consider whether a manufacturer showed due diligence in complying with mandatory specifications and requirements of these guidelines, and followed advisory specifications and recommendations from these guidelines, or utilized alternative implementation.

6.7.7. Collection of Data.

The FCC should maintain a database of inquiries and complaints received and the resulting findings or complaint resolutions for annual compilation and review. The FCC shall make this and other access related information it has available to the Access Board.

6.8. MARKET MONITORING REPORT6.8.1. Access Board Production of Annual Report.

The Access Board shall survey the marketplace annually to assess the state of the telecommunications market relative to product accessibility and to suggest means to improve telecommunications access for people with disabilities.

6.8.2. Contents of the Report.

The annual market monitoring report shall include information on the availability of accessible telecommunications products in the marketplace by type and by applicable disability. The annual market monitoring report shall include information from the FCC on number and types of inquiries and complaints, with their final resolution or findings, across all covered market sectors. The Access Board, working with the FCC, shall identify trends which impact telecommunications access for people with disabilities. In addition, the Access Board should identify research or product development work needed to rectify an existing market deficiency or pattern of inaccessibility to prevent future deficiencies.

Rationale: The annual market monitoring report is intended to present a balanced, high level viewpoint of the state of telecommunications accessibility. It should cite positive trends and progress. It should also identify deficiencies, trends or patterns of lack of access and areas needing further work. Its primary purpose is to guide the application of resources to access issues. Hence, it should applaud areas where resources are being effectively applied and identify areas needing additional action, with suggestions as to the kinds of action needed.

6.8.3. Availability of Report.

The Access Board shall announce the availability of the annual market monitoring report to the public in the Federal Register, and shall deliver the report to the FCC, and to the members of the coordination point (see 6.4). The Access Board shall make the report available, in print or alternate formats, to any interested party upon request.

6.8.4. Actions Triggered by Report.

If the annual market monitoring report indicates important product areas showing lack of progress or if substantial patterns of non-compliance with section 255 are identified, the FCC and/or the Access Board may call for associated industry cooperative efforts or may initiate proceedings to develop more stringent compliance measures for section 255. The Access Board may also recognize and recommend processes or innovative technical solutions (best practices) which may improve product design or accessibility.