March/ April 2010

CURRENT NEWS FROM THE UNITED STATES ACCESS BOARD 

ACCESS CURRENTS 

Volume 16 No.2 March/ April 2010  

 

 

 

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Board to Set Standards for Medical Diagnostic Equipmentobama2

The healthcare reform measure recently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama includes provisions to address access for people with disabilities to medical diagnostic equipment. The "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" authorizes the Access Board to develop new access standards for medical diagnostic equipment including examination tables and chairs, weight scales, x-ray machines and other radiological equipment, and mammography equipment. Access to such equipment, which has been problematic, is not addressed by existing accessibility standards or regulations, including those issued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

"The Board welcomes this opportunity to improve access to medical care for millions of Americans with disabilities," states David Capozzi, the Board's Executive Director. "The standards to be developed will fill a critical gap and help ensure that the equipment used to provide such care is accessible to all." The Board develops and maintains accessibility guidelines and standards for facilities, outdoor environments, transportation, and information and communication technologies under the ADA and other laws.

The law directs the Board to issue the new standards within two years in consultation with the Food and Drug Administration. The standards are to address independent access to, and use of, medical diagnostic equipment by people with disabilities to the maximum extent possible. The Board is also responsible for periodically reviewing and updating the standards. The law implements these provisions through amendments to the Rehabilitation Act. For more information, contact David Baquis of the Access Board at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , (202) 272-0013 (v), or (202) 272-0082 (TTY).

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Hearings Provide Forum for Public Comment on Draft ICT Rule

On March 25th the Board held a public hearing on its refresh of requirements for information and communication technologies (ICT) in San Diego at the 25th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference organized by the California State University at Northridge (CSUN). The event provided an opportunity for public comment on the Board's draft rule to jointly update standards for electronic and information technology in the Federal sector covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and guidelines for telecommunications products subject to Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act. Attendees who provided comment at the hearing included representatives from disability groups, Federal agencies, industry, trade associations, and various organizations, such as the World Wide Web Consortium.

Many speakers were generally supportive of the draft rule and the work of the former Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee which provided recommendations upon which the rule is based. Comments addressed a range of topics, including application of the rule, the relationship between functional and technical criteria, global harmonization, exceptions, the need for the rulemaking process to keep up with the quickening pace of technological innovation and change, and remaining barriers to access, particularly for people with vision impairments. Mobile technologies, platforms, digital publishing, audio description, and self-service interactive transaction machines were some of the specific technologies addressed in comments.

The Board also conducted a public webinar on April 1 to review the draft rule and to highlight information the Board seeks through questions posed to the public. Over 300 people attended this online overview of the rule.

The Board will hold a second public hearing on the draft rule on May 12 from 9:00 to noon in downtown Washington, D.C. at the Embassy Suites DC Convention Center, 900 10th Street, N.W. The draft rule features structural and substantive revisions to the Section 508 standards and Section 255 guidelines to improve accessibility as well as compliance, address market trends, and promote global standardization. The Board invites comment on all parts of the draft rule, including its format and organization, the advantages and disadvantages of specific provisions, alternative approaches, and information on benefits, costs, and specific issues raised by the Board in questions to the public. The rule and related information, including instructions for submitting written comments, are posted on the Board's website at www.access-board.gov/508.htm. The deadline for written comments is June 21. Those who wish to testify at the hearing are encouraged to pre-register by contacting Kathy Johnson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , (202) 272-0041, or (202) 272-0082 (TTY). Questions on the rulemaking should be directed to Tim Creagan This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , (202) 272-0016 (v), or (202) 272-0082 (TTY).

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DOT Member Polly Trottenberg Elected Access Board Chairtrottenberg

Polly Trottenberg, Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy at the Department of Transportation (DOT), was elected Chair of the Access Board at its March meeting. In remarks following her election, Trottenberg, who represents DOT on the Board and oversees development of DOT policy and regulations, expressed appreciation for DOT's and the Board's long history of working cooperatively and productively together in addressing access to public transportation. She noted that DOT is eager to work with the Board to advance rulemaking in areas of mutual interest, including access to public rights-of-way and passenger vessels and the update of criteria for transportation vehicles covered by the ADA. Before being named to her DOT post last year by President Obama, Trottenberg served as Executive Director of Building America's Future, a non-profit organization that promotes investment in the nation's infrastructure. She also worked extensively on issues concerning transportation, public works, energy and the environment on Capitol Hill as a Senate staff member and legislative director.

The Board elected as its Vice Chair Nancy Starnes of Arlington, Virginia, who was appointed to the Board in 2008. Starnes is the former Director of External Affairs for the National Organization on Disability and has been active in disability rights advocacy for over 30 years. Board officers serve for a term of one year.

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FCC's Broadband Plan Addresses Improved Accessibility

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently released a comprehensive blueprint to expand the availability and benefits of broadband technology, including high-speed internet service, throughout the nation. The plan offers strategies to make broadband available to all Americans and to maximize its use in order to improve economic output, education, homeland security, healthcare, and energy efficiency.fcc-plan "Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan" recommends actions the FCC and other Federal agencies, as well as Congress, can take to achieve key goals, including making broadband available to all Americans and improving access for people with disabilities to enabled technologies.

"We must make clear that building in accessibility at the design and development stage is cost-effective, and that all of society benefits from the widespread use of accessibility features such as captioning, speech recognition, and speech output," stated FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in announcing release of the plan. He noted that broadband-enabled applications create unique opportunities for accessibility and that recommendations of the plan will maximize broadband use by people with disabilities, the majority of whom do not have broadband connection in the home.

The plan calls for the Federal government to become a model for accessibility and recommends creation of a working group of Federal agencies, including the Access Board, to coordinate efforts to improve accessibility and compliance with laws such as Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. It also recommends creation of a forum where stakeholders, including consumers, manufacturers, and service providers, can share best practices, promote innovation, and develop accessibility solutions. In addition, the plan advises the FCC and Congress to update laws and regulations, including FCC rules issued under Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act and the Hearing Aid Compatibility Act, to address access to Internet Protocol-based communications and video-programming technologies. Other agencies, such as the Department of Justice, are urged to address access to digital content in the private sector under the ADA. The plan is available online at www.broadband.gov.

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Upcoming Board Webinars and Training Sessions

The next scheduled webinars in the Board's free monthly series will cover access to parking and passenger loading zones (May 6), sidewalks and street crossings (June 3), and signage (July 1). The webinars, which are scheduled from 2:30 - 4:00 (ET), are made available in cooperation with national network of ADA centers known as Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers (DBTACs). Registration is free, but a modest fee is charged by the DBTACs to process continuing education credits. For more information, including registration instructions, visit www.accessibilityonline.org.

The Board also provides training on its guidelines and standards on a regular basis at various events across the country. Upcoming venues for Board programs include the annual National ADA Symposium in Denver (June 20 - 23) and the Southwest Conference on Disability in Albuquerque (October 7 - 9). In addition, the Board provides training upon request to Federal agencies, local and state governments, advocacy and trade groups, and private firms and companies. Recently, the Board conducted a series of trainings on updated facility standards for the U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command in California, Washington, and Virginia. Training programs are typically tailored to the needs and interests of each audience. For more information, visit the Board's website at www.access-board.gov/training.htm or contact Peggy Greenwell, the Board's Training Coordinator, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , (202) 272-0017 (v), or (202) 272-0082 (TTY).

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U.S. Postal Service Improves Access to Post Offices Nationwide

uspsAlthough the volume of mail sent through the U.S. Postal Service has declined in recent years, the availability of local post offices remains popular with the public. Polls indicate that majorities of Americans support cost-saving measures, such as suspension of Saturday delivery, but not the closing of post offices in their area. The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has undertaken a comprehensive program to improve access to post offices with a focus on leased properties, which comprise the majority of its inventory. Through its Leased Space Accessibility Program, USPS is surveying all of its approximately 27,000 leased facilities according to updated accessibility standards. These standards, which USPS adopted based on guidelines issued by the Board, include new provisions for customer service counters, a common subject of access complaints, and updated provisions for leased facilities. To date, USPS has surveyed more than half of its leased post offices and completed improvements and corrections at over 6,000 sites.

USPS also regularly addresses access concerns among the over 8,000 post offices it owns. Like other Federal facilities, postal facilities built or altered after 1969 are required to be accessible under the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA). The Access Board is responsible for enforcing the ABA through the investigation of complaints and works cooperatively with USPS to resolve cases concerning postal facilities. To improve compliance, USPS has conducted an extensive program to train facility personnel and contractors on the updated access standards. In addition, USPS is also improving access to self-service machines and kiosks, a staple at most post offices. New automated Postal Center machines being installed in post offices across the country provide accessible and user-friendly interactive features.

For further information on these programs, contact Jennifer Beiro-Reveille of USPS at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (703) 526-2750. Questions about access to a particular post office or other federally funded facility can be directed to the Board's Office of Compliance and Enforcement at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , (800) 872-2253 (v), (800) 993-2822 (TTY), or through the Board's website at www.access-board.gov/enforce.htm.

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Access Currents is a free newsletter issued by the Access Board every other month by mail and e-mail. Send questions or comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call (800) 872-2253 ext. 0026 (voice) or (800) 993-2822 (TTY). Mailing address: 1331 F Street, N.W., Suite 1000; Washington, D.C. 20004-1111.

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