On April 3, the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee (TEITAC) presented its report to the Access Board on updating accessibility criteria for information and communication technologies. The committee’s report recommends revisions to the Board’s standards for electronic and information technology covered by section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. It also addresses updates to guidelines for telecommunications products issued by the Board under section 255 of the Telecommunication Act.
TEITAC co-chairs Jim Tobias (l) and Mike Paciello (r) present a copy of the committee's report to Board chair Tricia Mason.
“We firmly believe that the recommendations of this report will lead to new versions of the standards and guidelines that comprehensively cover accessibility in a dynamic and innovative marketplace,” stated Mike Paciello of the Paciello Group who co-chaired the committee. Co-chair Jim Tobias of Inclusive Technologies concurred, noting that “this committee, through the incredible range of expertise and talent it enlisted, indeed rose to the challenge and was not shy in confronting a host of complex issues before it.”
The committee’s report details recommended changes to both the substance and the structure of the standards and guidelines. The recommendations, adopted by consensus under a process common to Federal advisory committees, specify updates that are responsive to market trends and technological innovations that continuously reshape the range of products covered. These include technologies used for communication, computing, storage, duplication, and production, among others. Access is addressed for all types of disabilities, including those that are sensory, physical, speech-related, or cognitive in nature.
Organized by the Board in July 2006, the committee met regularly over the course of its charter and held numerous teleconferences in between meetings. The committee’s 41 members comprised a broad cross-section of stakeholders, including representatives from industry, disability groups, standard-setting bodies in the U.S. and abroad, and government agencies, among others. In their deliberations, committee members addressed a range of issues, including new or convergent technologies, market forces, and international harmonization. Recognizing the importance of standardization across markets worldwide, the committee coordinated its work with other standard-setting bodies in the U.S. and abroad. Representatives on the committee from the World Wide Web Consortium, the European Union, Canada, Australia, and Japan greatly facilitated this effort.
The committee sought to balance the need for detailed criteria with an approach that accommodates the dynamic and ever-evolving nature of the technologies covered. Many people, from product designers and engineers to procurers and end users, have called for clear delineation of what makes a product accessible for compliance purposes. However, the committee determined that product-specific criteria will not keep pace with innovative trends and market forces which enhance the capabilities of products and blur their categorization. Convergent technologies, for example, support the growing demand for all-in-one products, such as mobile devices that offer voice and text communication, web browsing, and media players.
The committee’s report puts forth a revised set of performance criteria that describe access capabilities for products generally. The committee organized these provisions to serve as a framework for technical specifications that have been updated to address hardware, user interfaces and electronic content, audio-visual players, displays, and content, real-time voice communication, and authoring tools. Unlike the current section 508 standards, these provisions are organized by the features or capabilities of a product, instead of discreet product types. The recommendations contain advisory and background information on the performance and technical provisions, including references to related standards, and update defined terms and provisions covering documentation, support, and maintenance. The report also advises the Board on considerations for future updates, supplementary guidance materials and tools, compliance testing, and further research.
The Board will propose updates to the section 508 standards and telecommunications guidelines based on its review of the committee’s report. The Board’s proposal will be made available for public comment. Additional information is available on the Board’s Section 508 Update webpage and the committee’s website at http://teitac.org. For further information, contact Tim Creagan at firstname.lastname@example.org , (202) 272-0016 (v), or (202) 272-0082 (TTY).