Board Holds Hearing on Draft ICT Rule

Mike Paciello testifying at Board hearingJanuary 12, 2012

 The Board conducted a public hearing January 11 on a revised draft of updated requirements for information and communication technology (ICT) covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act. Over a dozen people provided comments at the hearing, including representatives from advocacy groups, industry, and government.

Many speakers expressed support for structural changes made by the Board to streamline the rule and simplify requirements. They also endorsed the incorporation of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG) by direct reference to eliminate redundancy and promote greater harmonization. Some called attention to specific sections of the draft that should be clarified as a result of the rule's reorganization or the replacement of requirements with the WCAG reference.

Commenters voiced concern over the timeframe to complete this update, particularly in view of the increasing speed of technological change and innovation. They urged the Board to explore options for a more timely process to refresh the ICT requirements on a continuing or rolling basis to keep pace with the ever-changing and newly emerging technologies of a dynamic market. Delays in keeping the requirements regularly updated, it was argued, impede industry compliance and hamper the incorporation of accessibility into new products.

Participants urged the Board to revise the rule to cover certain technologies or barriers to access. These recommendations addressed self-service machines and kiosks, which are becoming more prevalent, the growing market of gesture-based interfaces, such as touch screens, the emerging trend in digital or biometric identification as an alternative to password protection, hand held devices and access for people with limited dexterity, refreshable braille, and access for people with cognitive disabilities. In addition, recommendations were made to improve coverage of products with closed functionality, communication device software, web authoring tools, and technologies involving multiple languages, such as those used in foreign language instruction or translation.

Some speakers called attention to failures in the implementation of section 508 resulting in access issues for members of the public and federal employees with disabilities. Comments pointed to the importance of supplementary technical assistance materials, including answers to frequently asked questions, to improve implementation and compliance. It was also recommended that efforts be made to make the functional performance criteria of the rule testable to help validate compliance.

A transcript of the hearing will be posted to the rulemaking docket on the www.regulations.gov website in coming weeks. The Board will hold a second hearing March 1 at the CSUN Conference in San Diego. The hearing will be open to the general public and will not be limited to those registered for the conference.

Further information on this rulemaking is available on the Board's website.

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