On July 24th the Board held a town meeting in the Denver area to discuss access issues and to provide updates on the work of the Board. This year’s event included panel presentations by invited guests on voting equipment and classroom acoustics, which were followed by an open forum where members of the public could advise the Board on issues of concern. The Board also held a public hearing on proposed guidelines for outdoor developed areas.
Tom Wilkey, Executive Director of the Election Assistance Commission, provided an update on efforts to improve access to voting equipment under the Help America Vote Act of 2002. This work includes a review and update of guidelines for voting systems adopted by the Commission in 2005. The review is being conducted by a designated interagency panel that drafted the current version of the guidelines which includes representation from the Board. An updated draft will be released for public comment, possibly in September. The Commission will hold hearings across the county on the updated guidelines during the comment period.
Wilkey also provided an overview of a new Commission program for certifying voting system equipment and accrediting testing laboratories. Representatives from two testing laboratories in Colorado, Carolyn Coggins of I Beta Quality Assurance and Jennifer Garcia of Systest Labs, outlined the procedures for verifying compliance of voting systems. Under this voluntary program, manufacturers can submit their products for testing against Federal standards and receive certification from the Commission, which most states require. The Board will provide training on access issues to the labs in late August.
The second panel addressed the importance of good acoustics in classrooms and other learning environments. Dr. Cheryl Johnson, an educational audiologist and deaf education consultant, described how background noise and reverberation compromise learning. While poor acoustics effect all children because their listening and comprehension skills are still developing, the impact is more pronounced on children with hearing loss, as well as those with learning disabilities or who learned English as a second language. She provided an overview of acoustic standards for classrooms developed by the Acoustical Society of America with support from the Board and other entities and outlined strategies to promote their adoption by states and model building code groups. Lisa Cannon, an audiologist for the Denver public schools, provided a briefing on the implementation of the standards by the Poudre School District in Colorado. A new junior high school that opened last year offers a case study on the positive effect of the standards. Two new elementary schools due to open this year and next year will also meet the acoustic standards.
During the open forum that followed the presentations, several members of the public, including parents of children with hearing loss, strongly endorsed the efforts to improve classroom acoustics. Participants also called attention to other access concerns, including ADA standards for residential facilities, voting systems and the legibility of paper ballots, and access to parking meters.
Public Hearing on Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas
Later on the same day, the Board held a public hearing on newly proposed guidelines for Federal outdoor developed areas. The event provided an opportunity for members of the public and interested parties to provide feedback on the guidelines, which address access to new or altered trails, beach routes, and picnic and camping areas constructed by the Federal government.
Participants included representatives from area and national organizations devoted to outdoor recreation or accessibility, including the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks Department, Partners for Access to the Woods, the Continental Divide Trail Alliance, the National Center on Accessibility, and the National Recreation and Park Association. Testimony was also received from the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Rocky Mountain Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center, AXS Vail Valley, and the Colorado Governor’s Advisory Council for Persons with Disabilities. Some speakers had served on the regulatory negotiation committee that drafted the guidelines for the Board.
Sept. 6th 2:00 – 5:00
Sept. 26th 2:00 – 5:00
Many commenters generally endorsed the approach taken in the guidelines and urged the Board to promptly follow up with similar guidelines for non-Federal sites. Some comments called attention to certain provisions that should be revised or clarified, including defined terms, technical criteria for trails, protruding objects, overlooks, and scoping for parking, and picnic and camping elements. A number of comments addressed questions on various topics posed to the public in the Board’s proposal, including exemptions, construction tolerances, trail signage, and beach access routes. These and other comments received are posted on the Board’s website.
Future hearings are scheduled for September 6th in Washington, D.C. and September 26th in Indianapolis at the National Recreation and Park Association’s annual congress. Comments can be submitted at the hearings or by email, fax, or mail. The deadline for comment is October 18th. For further information, contact Bill Botten at firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 272-0014 (v), or (202) 272-0082 (TTY).