A. Introduction

As noted above, the Board is proposing to revise and update both the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines. The existing standards and guidelines are set forth in two separate regulatory parts—36 CFR Parts 1194 and 1193—and apply to different types of covered entities (e.g., federal entities and telecommunications equipment manufacturers). Nonetheless, these two sets of provisions contain many similar provisions and are, in our view, inextricably linked from a regulatory perspective. Both the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines contain technical requirements for the design of accessible ICT. Both contain functional performance criteria, which apply when there are gaps in one or more of their respective technical provisions. Both address hardware and software features of ICT. Finally, both require that support documentation and services, when offered, are provided in a manner that meets the communication needs of individuals with disabilities and conveys information on the accessibility features of ICT.

We are proposing to combine the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines into a single comprehensive set of requirements with three parts that will appear as Appendices A, B, and C to 36 CFR Part 1194. Appendix A covers the proposed application and scoping requirements for ICT subject to Section 508 (“508 Chapter 1” and “508 Chapter 2”). Appendix B addresses the proposed application and scoping requirements for ICT covered by Section 255 (“255 Chapter 1” and “255 Chapter 2”). Appendix C includes the proposed functional performance criteria (Chapter 3) and the proposed technical requirements (Chapters 4 through 6) that are referenced by the Section 508 and Section 255 scoping provisions in Appendices A and B.6

Application and scoping includes instructions on when and how the provisions in proposed chapters 3 through 6 would apply under Sections 508 and 255. With this proposed format, it is critical for covered entities to review scoping and application in either Appendix A (508 Chapters 1 and 2) or Appendix B (255 Chapters 1 and 2) before consulting the functional performance and technical criteria in Appendix C (Chapters 3, 4, 5 and 6). For example, under Section 508, federal agencies that wish to procure, use, maintain or develop ICT, must first understand what ICT is covered by the proposed technical requirements and functional performance criteria. This information exists only in Appendix A. Agencies would not consult Appendix B because it applies only to telecommunications equipment manufacturers subject to Section 255. Similarly, telecommunications equipment manufacturers would consult Appendix B to ascertain what ICT is subject to the proposed technical requirements and functional performance criteria under Section 255; they would not be required to comply with Appendix A. Nonetheless, it bears noting that, while a Section 255-covered manufacturer is not obligated to comply with the 508 Standards, such manufacturers may still elect at their discretion to consult the standards if they wish. For example, if a telecommunications equipment manufacturer wished to make certain products (or features of products) more marketable to federal agencies, this manufacturer might choose to consult the 508 Standards to be familiar with standards governing federal agencies’ procurement obligations.

Naming conventions used in the Appendices for requirements also help indicate whether a particular provision applies under Section 508, Section 255, or both. In Appendix A, all proposed provisions are preceded by the letter “E” to indicate the provision would be applicable under Section 508 only. In Appendix B, all proposed provisions are preceded by the letter “C” to indicate the provision would be applicable under Section 255 only.7 The proposed technical requirements in Appendix C do not include an alphabetic prefix because, as discussed above, they would be applied in accordance with the application and scoping requirements in either Appendix A or Appendix B, depending on whether the covered entity is subject to Section 508 (federal entities) or Section 255 (telecommunications equipment manufacturers).

This proposed formatting and organizational structure is based on recommendations made by the Advisory Committee and public comments submitted in response to the 2010 and 2011 ANPRMs. Section VI.B (508 Standards: Application and Scoping) and Section VI.C (255 Guidelines: Application and Scoping), below, summarize the proposed rule and explain any differences between the existing requirements for Section 508 and Section 255 and the proposed rule. Due to the overlapping nature of the proposed 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines, some of the following section-by-section discussions of particular standards also address a “sister” guideline. In addition, in a number of these sections, the Board poses questions soliciting comments, information, or data from the public.

B. 508 Standards: Application and Scoping

508 Chapter 1: Application and Administration

This chapter proposes general requirements reflecting the purpose of the 508 Standards (E101.1). It also proposes criteria for equivalent facilitation (E101.2), lists referenced standards and where they may be obtained (E102), and provides definitions of terms used in the standards (E103). 508 Chapter 1 proposes, in large part, to simplify and reorganize similar provisions contained in existing 508 Standards §§ 1194.1 Purpose, 1194.4 Definitions, and 1194.5 Equivalent Facilitation.

E101 General

This is an introductory section.

E101.1 Purpose

This section states that the purpose of the 508 Standards is to provide scoping and technical requirements for ICT that is accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. Compliance with these requirements is mandatory for federal agencies subject to Section 508.

E101.2 Equivalent Facilitation

This section is based on existing 508 Standards § 1194.5. It would permit the use of an alternative design or technology in lieu of conformance to the proposed technical requirements in Chapters 4 and 5, but only if the alternative design or technology provides substantially equivalent or greater accessibility and usability by persons with disabilities than would be provided by conforming to the proposed technical provisions. This section also would require the proposed functional performance criteria in Chapter 3 to be used to determine whether the alternative design or technology provides individuals with disabilities with substantially equivalent or greater accessibility and usability. The application of the functional performance criteria for this purpose would fill in a gap in the existing 508 Standards, which do not explain how the functional performance criteria are to be used in relation to the technical provisions. We explain our approach in greater detail above in Section V.C (Major Issues – Functional Performance Criteria).

E101.3 Conventional Industry Tolerances

This section would provide that dimensions are subject to conventional industry tolerances except where dimensions are stated as a range. This proposed provision would be new to the 508 Standards and would clarify how dimensions are to be interpreted when specified in the text or a referenced standard.

E101.4 Units of Measurement

This section would note measurements are stated in U.S. customary and metric units and that the values stated in each system (U.S. customary and metric units) may not be exact equivalents. This section would also provide that each system be used independently of the other. This proposed section is new to the 508 Standards and would clarify dimensions stated in the text of the proposed rule.

E102 Referenced Standards

This is an introductory section.

E102.1 Incorporation by Reference

This section lists the technical standards developed by voluntary consensus standard-setting bodies that the Board proposes to incorporate by reference in the proposed 508 Standards. It would require that where there is a difference between a provision of the proposed 508 Standards and the referenced standards, the 508 Standards would apply.

Incorporating these standards complies with the federal mandate—as set forth in the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 and OMB Circular A119—that agencies use voluntary consensus standards in their regulatory activities unless doing so would be legally impermissible or impractical. The standards proposed for incorporation would improve clarity because they are built on consensus standards developed by stakeholders. Most of these standards are widely used and, therefore, should be familiar to many regulated entities.

Incorporation by reference of these standards would be a distinct change and improvement from the existing 508 Standards, which contain no referenced standards. The Advisory Committee strongly recommended the adoption of specific accessibility consensus standards in order to promote harmonization. The adoption of consensus standards results in a more unified regulatory environment in which all participants benefit from clarity and simplicity. As noted in the TEITAC Report:

Industry supports harmonization in principle because it allows the ICT market to address accessibility through a global process -- one product developed to be sold world-wide -- rather than by trying to meet unique, potentially conflicting standards required by different countries. Harmonization should result in more accessible products, delivered through a more economically efficient market. Consumers thus benefit directly from harmonization; they also benefit indirectly because harmonization allows advocates to focus their efforts on fewer standards development activities. It is this economy of focused effort that may offer the greatest net benefit to people with disabilities. (TEITAC Report, Part 4, section 4.3).

Once incorporated by reference, the referenced standards become part of the 508 Standards. We are unaware of any duplication or overlap among the parts of the proposed standards, including the standards incorporated by reference. However, in order to address any potential conflicts, proposed E102.1 (as well as C102.1) provide that, when a conflict occurs between the 508 Standards (or 255 Guidelines) and a standard incorporated by reference, the 508 Standards (or 255 Guidelines) apply.

While a discussion of the estimated economic impact of the proposed rule—including the proposed incorporation by reference of the consensus technical standards listed in E102.1 and C102.1—follows below in Section VIII, two points bear noting here. First, the cost of implementing this proposed rule can be mitigated, in part, through use of an updated product accessibility template that includes WCAG 2.0 and the other referenced standards. The product accessibility template, available through the GSA Section508.gov site is intended to help agencies understand which provisions apply to particular products. We expect GSA will update this tool so that it will be available for use by agencies on or before the effective date of revised 508 Standards. Second, the W3C WCAG website provides readily available technical assistance—free of charge—that is linked to each technical requirement in WCAG 2.0. A great deal of third-party information is also available. Collectively, these resources should also greatly aid federal agencies and other regulated entities become conversant with the provisions in this standard, to the extent they are not already familiar with them.

The Office of the Federal Register recently promulgated a final rule requiring federal agencies to provide information to the public in regulatory preambles relating to the availability of materials to be incorporated by reference. In Section VII.G (Regulatory Process Matters – Availability of Materials Incorporated by Reference) below, the Board provides information on the availability of ten consensus standards proposed for incorporation by reference in the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines.

The proposed 508 Standards would incorporate by reference the following standards:

E102.2 ANSI/HFES

ANSI/HFES 200.2, Human Factors Engineering of Software User Interfaces — Part 2: Accessibility (2008), would be incorporated by reference at 502.4. This standard provides ergonomic guidance and specifications for the design of accessible software for use at work, in the home, in educational settings, and in public places. It covers issues associated with designing accessible software for people with a wide range of physical, sensory and cognitive abilities, including those who are temporarily disabled and the elderly.

This proposed standard would be new to both the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines. Referencing this standard will ensure that ICT operating systems provide accessibility features (e.g., keyboard entry with a single finger, visual alerts paired with audible prompts) that users with disabilities expect and have come to rely upon. These features are commonly available in platform operating systems; the standard, therefore, serves mainly to codify current industry practices.

E102.3 ANSI/IEEE

ANSI/IEEE C63.19-2011, American National Standard for Methods of Measurement of Compatibility between Wireless Communications Devices and Hearing Aids, would be incorporated by reference at 410.4.1. This standard is consistent with current telecommunications industry practices.

Products conforming to this standard minimize interference to hearing aids by wireless telephones. When telephone interference is not minimized, it can create noise in hearing aids that masks the sound of conversation. An added value of this standard is that it provides a uniform method of measurement for compatibility between hearing aids and wireless communications devices.

E102.4 ATSC

A/53 Digital Television Standard, Part 5: AC-3 Audio System Characteristics (2010), would be incorporated by reference at 412.1.1. This standard provides technical requirements for digital television tuners when they process audio description. This standard is consistent with current telecommunications industry practice.

E102.5 IETF

RFC 4103, RTP Payload for Text Conversation (2005), would be incorporated by reference at 410.6.3.2. This standard describes how to carry real-time text conversation session contents in RTP packets. Real-time text conversation is used alone, or in connection with other conversational modalities, to form multimedia conversation services. Examples of other conversational modalities are video and voice. When using RTT, text is received at the same time it is generated. For people who communicate without voice, RTT offers a way to interact that more closely resembles a live two-way call. This proposed standard would be new to the 508 Standards (as well as the 255 Guidelines), and represents a significant shift to better align with current technology. IP-based RTT is the only modern technology that offers the same functionality that TTYs have historically provided. Contemporary TTYs do not work with modern IP desk phones because the acoustic signal (Baudot) is garbled due to incompatible compression algorithms. When communication in real time is important, as in emergency situations, RTT allows users to communicate in a manner similar to a live two-way voice call. Parties exchange information in real time and can interrupt each other during the conversation. This technology most closely approximates the useful features of TTYs. Real-time text is also discussed in detail in Section V.D (Major Issues – Real-Time Text) above.

E102.6 ISO

ISO 14289-1 (2012), Document management applications — Electronic document file format enhancement for accessibility — Part 1: Use of ISO 32000-1 (PDF/UA-1), would be incorporated by reference at E205.1 and 602.3.1. This is an international standard for accessible portable document format (PDF) files. PDF/UA-1 provides a technical, interoperable standard for the authoring, remediation, and validation of PDF content to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities who use assistive technology such as screen readers, screen magnifiers, joysticks and other assistive technologies to navigate and read content. This proposed standard is new to both the 508 Standards and the 255 Guidelines. It is offered as an option to WCAG 2.0 for accessible PDFs.

E102.7 ITU-T

ITU-T Recommendation G.722, General Aspects of Digital Transmission Systems, Terminal Components, 7 kHz Audio-Coding within 64 kbits/s (Sept. 2012), would be incorporated by reference at 410.5. This standard is an ITU-T standard coder-decoder program that provides 7 kHz wideband audio at data rates from 48, 56, and 64 kbits/s. This standard provides a significant improvement in speech quality over earlier standards. It was previously proposed in the 2011 ANPRM and received no objections.

ITU-T Recommendation E.161: Arrangement of digits, letters and symbols on telephones and other devices that can be used for gaining access to a telephone network (Feb. 2001), would be incorporated by reference at section 407.3.2. This standard is an ITU-T standard that defines the assignment of the basic 26 Latin letters (A to Z) to the 12-key telephone keypad. It provides guidance for arranging alphabetic keys in a predictable, consistent manner. This proposed standard is new to the 508 Standards (as well as the 255 Guidelines), though it reflects current industry practice.

E102.8 TIA

TIA 825-A (2003), A Frequency Shift Keyed Modem for Use on the Public Switched Telephone Network, would be incorporated by reference at 410.6.3.1. This is the standard for TTY signals on the public switched telephone network interface (PSTN). This standard is consistent with current industry practice in the telecommunications industry.

TIA 1083 (2007), Telephone Terminal Equipment Handset Magnetic Measurement Procedures and Performance Requirements, would be incorporated by reference at 410.4.2. This standard defines measurement procedures and performance requirements for the handset generated audio band magnetic noise of wire line telephones, including digital cordless telephones. This standard is consistent with current telecommunications industry practice.

E102.9 W3C

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, W3C Recommendation, December 11, 2008, would be incorporated by reference in sections E205.1, E207.2, 405.1 Exception, 501.1 Exception 1, 504.2, 504.3, 504.4, and 602.3.1. WCAG 2.0 offers a series of recommendations to make Web content more accessible to all users, including persons with disabilities. We discuss our proposal to incorporate WCAG 2.0 by reference in greater detail above in Section V.B (Major Issues – WCAG 2.0 Incorporation by Reference).

E103 Definitions

This is an introductory section.

E103.1 Terms Defined in Referenced Standards

This section proposes that terms defined in referenced standards, which are not otherwise defined in section E103.4, would have the meaning given them in their respective referenced standards.

E103.2 Undefined Terms

This section proposes that the meaning of terms not defined in section E103.4 or in referenced standards shall be given their ordinarily accepted meanings in the sense that the particular context implies.

E103.3 Interchangeability

This section proposes that words, terms, and phrases used in the singular shall include the plural and those used in the plural shall include the singular.

E103.4 Defined Terms

This section includes definitions for terms used in, or integral to, the proposed 508 Standards. Some of the definitions have been carried over in whole or in part from the existing 508 Standards, while others represent terms that are new to these standards. We also propose to delete several definitions from the existing 508 Standards that are either obsolete or no longer needed. A summary of the proposed definitions in E103.4 follows below. Terms that are not discussed remain unchanged from the existing 508 Standards.

For four terms in the existing 508 Standards, the Board proposes to retain the term, but make slight changes to their respective definitions to improve clarity or to account for technological advances. The definition of the term “agency” would be revised to expressly include agencies and departments of the United States as defined in 44 U.S.C. 3502 and the U.S. Postal Service. The term “assistive technology” would include minor editorial changes from the text in the existing 508 Standards. The term “operable controls” would be revised to “operable part,” which would be defined as “a component of ICT used to activate, deactivate, or adjust the ICT.” The proposed definition would not include the requirement for physical contact found in the definition in the existing 508 Standards and would not include examples of controls. The term “TTY” would be updated to reflect modern technologies currently in use, and would specifically mention such examples as devices for real-time text communications, voice and text intermixed communications (e.g. voice carry over and hearing carry over), and computers with TTY-emulating software and a modem.

Two other terms are new to the proposed 508 Standards, but have close analogs in the existing standards. First, the term “closed functionality” would replace “self-contained closed products.” The proposed new definition would provide a more accurate description of the characteristics of the ICT that is addressed in the proposed provision in section 402 “Closed Functionality.” In addition, this term would address both those features of ICT that are closed by design and other features that are closed because of policies that may restrict specific functions of ICT, where the ICT might normally be capable of being made accessible to an individual with a disability. For example, a policy not allowing the attachment of data storage devices to ICT would, in the case of an individual with low vision, essentially block that person from being able to attach a device containing magnification software. The new definition would include examples of ICT with closed functionality, such as self-service machines and fax machines.

Second, the term “information and communication technology” (ICT) would replace “electronic and information technology” (E&IT), and revise the definition significantly. The proposed definition for ICT would be broader than the existing definition of E&IT in that it encompasses both electronic and information technology covered by Section 508, and telecommunications products, interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) products, and Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) covered by Section 255. Using a common term that is applicable to both the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines supports one of the central goals of this rulemaking—namely, development of a single set of comprehensive requirements for two substantive areas that are inseparable from regulatory and policy perspectives. Additionally, to address confusion regarding application of the existing 508 Standards to electronic documents, the proposed ICT definition expressly clarifies that electronic content—such as Web pages and PDFs—falls within the definition of ICT. Lastly, this newly defined term provides an updated set of illustrative examples that better reflect today’s technologies.

We developed the definition for ICT by using the concepts from the existing definitions of “electronic and information technology,” “information technology,” and “telecommunications equipment,” albeit with significantly revised language. Defining a common term that covers both Section 508-covered E&IT and Section 255-covered telecommunications products and services is consistent with the overall approach in the proposed rule of presenting a unitary set of regulatory requirements under these two statutes. The proposed definition of ICT is also consistent with the terminology used by the Advisory Committee in its TEITAC report. That report noted:

Section 255 covers telecommunications products and services. Section 508 covers electronic and information technologies (E&IT). For convenience and clarity, wherever these two categories are taken together, we are using the common term “information and communication technologies, or ICT. (TEITAC Report, Part 1 & fn. 1.)

The TEITAC Report further noted that the 255 Guidelines developed by the Access Board “cover customer premises equipment and telecommunications equipment, but do not address services.” (See TEITAC Report, Part 1 & fn. 2.)

We proposed in the 2010 and 2011 ANPRMs that the term “information and communication technology (ICT)” be used to refer to electronic and information technology covered by Section 508 as well as to telecommunications products, interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) products, and Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) covered by Section 255. Commenters to the 2010 and 2011 ANPRMs supported this approach. In the proposed rule, the Board retains this approach.

The remaining 18 terms defined in proposed E103.4 have no counterparts in the existing 508 Standards. We propose adding these terms to the 508 Standards to provide definitions for key terms used in the proposed standards, reflect technological advances since promulgation of the existing 508 Standards, and aid stakeholder understanding. These new terms are described below.

The term “508 Standards” is defined in order to provide consistent cross-reference within the standards to all chapters that apply to Section 508-covered federal entities, namely: 508 Chapters 1 and 2 (36 CFR Part 1194, Appendix A), and Chapters 3 through 6 (36 CFR Part 1194, Appendix C). This definition is consistent with proposed § 1194.1, as well as usage of the term throughout this NPRM.

The term “audio description” is used in existing 508 Standards § 1194.24(d) but not defined. We would add a definition derived from WCAG 2.0, which would in part explain that “audio description” is “narration added to the soundtrack to describe important visual details that cannot be understood from the main soundtrack alone.”

The term “authoring tool” would be defined to mean “any software, or collection of software components, that can be used by authors, alone or collaboratively, to create or modify content for use by others, including other authors,” and would be included to explain the proposed provision in section 504, “Authoring Tools.”

The term “content” would be defined as “Electronic information and data, as well as the encoding that defines its structure, presentation, and interactions.” The definition is based on WCAG 2.0, and is proposed to promote harmonization and greater clarity in the proposed Standards and Guidelines.

The term “keyboard” would be defined as “a set of systematically arranged alphanumeric keys or a control that generates alphanumeric input by which a machine or device is operated.” This proposed definition would also clarify that a “keyboard” includes “tactilely discernible keys used in conjunction with the alphanumeric keys if their function maps to keys on the keyboard interfaces.” This proposed new definition would clarify the use of the term “keyboard” in Chapter 4 (Hardware).

The term “Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)” is new and is defined consistent with current FCC regulations.

The remaining twelve proposed new terms would be added to aid stakeholder understanding of particular requirements or criteria in the 508 Standards. Definitions for the terms “label,” “name,” “programmatically determinable,” and “text” are taken from WCAG 2.0. Additionally, the terms “application,” “hardware,” and “software” are based on definitions provided in the FCC’s regulations implementing Section 255 of the Communications Act. See 47 CFR Part 14. Definitions for the terms “menu,” “platform accessibility services,” “platform software,” “real-time text,” and “terminal” were drawn from the work of the Advisory Committee and other sources. “Menu,” “platform accessibility services,” and “real-time text” were proposed in the 2010 and 2011 ANPRMs. We received no public comments in response to these definitions in the two ANPRMs.

Lastly, proposed E103.4 would not include several terms that are defined in the existing 508 Standards. There terms are not included in this proposed rule because either the proposed technical requirement associated with the term sufficiently conveys its meaning (i.e., “alternate formats” and “undue burden”), or because the term is not used in the proposed rule (i.e., “alternate methods,” “product,” and “self-contained, closed products”).

508 Chapter 2: Scoping Requirements

This chapter proposes scoping for ICT that is procured, developed, maintained or used by federal agencies—that is, the types of ICT that would be required to conform to the proposed functional performance criteria and technical requirements in the 508 Standards, as well as the conditions under which these provisions would apply. Chapter 2 would contain provisions currently addressed in existing 508 Standards §§ 1194.2 “Application” and 1194.3 “General Exceptions,” thereby locating all scoping provisions in a single chapter.

E201 Application

This is an introductory section.

E201.1 Scope

This section proposes that ICT procured, developed, maintained, or used by agencies must conform to the proposed requirements set forth (or referenced) in 508 Chapter 2. This provision is consistent with existing 508 Standards § 1194.2.

E202 General Exceptions

This section contains proposed exceptions to the general scoping provisions in proposed 201. The structure of the proposed standards reinforces the principle that, under the general scoping provision, all ICT procured, developed, maintained or used by agencies would be required to conform to the proposed requirements, unless otherwise exempted. General exceptions apply broadly and, where applicable, exempt ICT from conformance with the proposed 508 Standards. Most of the proposed general exemptions are the same as those in existing 508 Standards § 1194.3, with only minor editorial changes. A brief discussion of the proposed changes to the General Exceptions follows below.

The Board is proposing to exclude from this rule two exceptions that are contained in the existing 508 Standards: §§ 1194.3(c) and 1194.3(d). Section 1194.3(c) provides that assistive technology need not be provided at the workstations of all federal employees. However, there is no general rule in either the existing or proposed 508 Standards that requires agencies to provide assistive technology at all workstations. Instead, these standards require compatibility with assistive technology when ICT is not directly accessible. The exception in § 1194.3(c) is thus unnecessary and potentially confusing. Consequently, the Board is not retaining it in the proposed rule.

We are also proposing to exclude the exception in § 1194.3(d) of the existing 508 Standards, which provides that when agencies provide the public access to ICT, they are not required to make agency-owned ICT available to individuals with disabilities who are members of the public at non-public locations. We are proposing to remove this exception because there is nothing in the proposed 508 Standards that would require an agency to provide accessible ICT at a specific location, or that would require public access to locations not open to the public. Consequently, this exception is not needed, and its removal from the 508 Standards would have no practical impact. The Board intends to address the continuing obligation of agencies to provide accommodations under Sections 501 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act in forthcoming guidance material to be posted on our website following publication of the final rule.

E202.1 General

This section proposes that ICT is exempt from these requirements to the extent specified by section E202.

E202.2 National Security Systems

This section proposes that ICT operated by agencies as part of a national security system, as defined by 40 U.S.C. 11103(a), is exempt from the requirements of this document. This is unchanged from existing 508 Standards § 1194.3(a).

E202.3 Federal Contracts

This section proposes that ICT acquired by a contractor that is incidental to a contract would not be required to conform to this document. This proposed exception is unchanged from existing 508 Standards § 1194.3(b), and the Board’s approach is discussed in greater detail above in Section IV.E.8 (Rulemaking History – 2010 and 2011 ANPRMs: Significant Issues – Revisions to Exceptions under 508 Standards).

E202.4 Functions Located in Maintenance or Monitoring Spaces

This section proposes to revise § 1194.3(f) of the existing 508 Standards to clarify that, where status indicators and operable parts for ICT functions are located in spaces that are only frequented by service personnel for maintenance, such items need not conform to the requirements of 508 Chapter 2. Functions of ICT located in maintenance spaces that can be controlled remotely, however, would still be required to comply with applicable standards. For example, if a server is located on a tall rack in a maintenance closet accessed only by service personnel, the controls on the server need not be accessible. However, any network or other server functions that could be accessed remotely would be required to comply with the proposed 508 Standards. We discuss our approach with respect to this exception in greater detail above in Section IV.E.8 (Rulemaking History – Major Issues Addressed in the 2010 and 2011 ANPRMs – Revisions to Exceptions under 508 Standards).

E202.5. Undue Burden or Fundamental Alteration

This section proposes to retain the provisions in existing 508 Standards §§ 1194.3(e) and 1194.2(a)(1), but would combine them in a single provision. This section would require that agencies comply with the requirements of the 508 Standards up to the point where conformance would impose an undue burden on the agency or would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of the ICT. Proposed subsections E202.5.1 and E202.5.2 respectively set forth criteria for undue burden determinations and establish requirements for written documentation of undue burden and fundamental alteration findings.

E202.5.1 Basis for a Determination of Undue Burden

This section proposes to incorporate language from the definition of “undue burden” in the existing 508 Standards § 1194.4 into a separate scoping provision. It would require that, when determining whether conformance to the proposed 508 Standards would impose an undue burden on the agency, the agency must consider the extent to which conformance would impose significant difficulty or expense taking into consideration the agency resources available to the program or component for which the ICT is to be procured, developed, maintained, or used. The proposed organizational restructuring of the undue burden provision represents an editorial revision only that is not intended to have substantive impact.

E202.5.2 Required Documentation

This section proposes to require responsible agency officials to document in writing the basis for determining that compliance with the proposed 508 Standards would either impose an undue burden or result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of the ICT. This proposed documentation requirement is derived from existing 508 Standards § 1194.2(a)(2) applicable to a determination of undue burden in the procurement context. Proposed 202.5.2 would, however, broaden this existing requirement by requiring written determinations in two new settings: (a) when an agency determines that conformance would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of the ICT; and (b) when an agency determines that conforming to one or more provisions applicable to the development, maintenance, or use of ICT would impose an undue burden. This change is intended to ensure accountability and transparency in agencies’ Section 508 implementation efforts by treating documentation obligations equally as between procurement and non-procurement contexts.

Under Section 508, it is the responsibility of each agency to establish policies and procedures describing how they will comply with the standards, including those for making undue burden and fundamental alteration determinations. The Department of Justice’s 2012 Biennial Report on Section 508 notes that “[n]early forty percent of agency components reported establishing a formal, written policy to document Section 508 exceptions claimed on [ICT] procurements. Many of these agency components reported that their [ICT] procurements met the Section 508 requirements and that reliance on an exception was unnecessary.”8

The Access Board anticipates that the burdens associated with broadening the scope of the documentation requirement will be minimal. First, proposed 202.5.3 deliberately does not prescribe criteria for needed documentation to ensure a deliberative and documented decisional process without being overly prescriptive. In this way, each agency is free to develop documentation policies and practices that best suit its respective needs and resources. Such an approach is consistent with, and respectful of, Section 508’s grant of independent responsibility for Section 508 enforcement to each agency.

Second, the Board expects that invocation of the undue burden and fundamental alteration exceptions will be infrequent, which would also mean an infrequent need for written determinations. For example, in the procurement context, the DOJ 2012 Biennial Report notes that many responding agency components reported having never relied on any exception. Agency components that did make occasional use of available exceptions, assertions of undue burden or fundamental alteration were, in turn, relatively uncommon. Use of these exceptions in procurements was limited to “large” and “very large” agencies; small and mid-size agencies (i.e., agencies with 10,000 employees or less) did not report using these exceptions. For larger agencies, only about 20 percent of agency components reported using the undue burden or fundamental alteration exceptions respectively. Thus, because proposed 202.5.2 broadens only agencies’ respective obligation to document undue burden or fundamental alteration determinations, and does not change the underlying substantive criteria for these exceptions, it is expected that occasions in which agencies must document use of these exceptions will be infrequent in both procurement and non-procurement contexts.

E202.5.3 Alternative Means

This section proposes that, when an agency determines that an undue burden or fundamental alteration exists, it must provide individuals with disabilities access to and use of information and data by an alternative means that meets identified needs. The proposed provision is taken from existing 508 Standards § 1194.2(a)(1) addressing undue burden, but adds the reference to fundamental alteration to clarify that agencies must still provide people with disabilities access to and use of information and data when either of these exceptions applies.

E202.6 Best Meets

This section proposes that, where ICT conforming to one or more provisions of the 508 Standards is not commercially available, the agency must procure the product that best meets these standards consistent with its business needs. This section would editorially revise existing 508 Standards § 1194.2(b).

Question 12. We are requesting information on how many times a year, on average, federal agencies respectively procure ICT that “best meets” the 508 Standards.

E202.6.1 Required Documentation

This section proposes to require that agencies document in writing the basis for determining that ICT fully conforming to applicable 508 Standards is not commercially available. Documenting the exception for commercial non-availability is not a requirement in the existing 508 Standards, though such documentation is mandated under the current federal acquisition regulations. See 48 CFR 39.203. A number of commenters to the 2010 ANPRM requested this change and supported its inclusion in the 2011 ANPRM. A documentation requirement was proposed in the 2011 ANPRM, and the Board did not receive any negative comments.

Question 13. The Board seeks information from federal agencies on the estimated number of hours, on average, they anticipate needing to prepare each written documentation of commercial unavailability determination under proposed E202.6.1.

E202.6.2 Alternative Means

This section proposes to require agencies to provide individuals with disabilities the information and data that would have been provided by fully conforming ICT when such ICT is commercially unavailable. Proposed E202.6.2 is similar in intent to proposed E202.5.3 (Undue Burden – Alternative Means), and would reinforce the statutory requirement for agencies to ensure that individuals with disabilities have comparable access to information and data.

E203 Access to Functionality

This is an introductory section.

E203.1 General

This section proposes to require agencies to ensure that all functionality of ICT is accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, either directly or by supporting the use of assistive technology. While this provision would be new to the 508 Standards, it is consistent with current agency practice. The Board interprets the statutory requirement to provide comparable access to information and data to be consistent with granting access to all functionality of ICT. This proposed requirement was strongly supported by the Advisory Committee, as well as commenters to the 2010 and 2011 ANPRMs.

E203.2 Agency Business Needs

This section proposes that, when agencies procure, develop, maintain or use ICT, they must identify the business needs of individuals with disabilities affecting vision, hearing, color perception, speech, dexterity, strength, or reach, in order to determine how such users will perform the functions supported by such ICT. The provision would also require agencies to assess how the ICT will be installed, configured, and maintained to support users with disabilities. The list of disabilities in this provision parallels the functional performance criteria proposed in Chapter 3.

The Board intends, through this provision, to reinforce the fundamental principle that agencies have an affirmative, continuing obligation under Section 508 to maintain the accessibility of ICT. While this is not a new requirement under Section 508, it is not expressly addressed in the existing 508 Standards. The Board proposes to include this section in response to many concerns raised over the years about the requirements under Section 508 to maintain ICT accessibility over time. Proposed 203.2 would make clear, for example, that agencies have an affirmative duty to ensure that when an accessible operating system is updated, the current or an updated version of screen reading software is compatible with the updated operating system.

E204 Functional Performance Criteria

This is an introductory section.

E204.1 General

This section proposes that, when the technical provisions of Chapter 4 and 5 do not address one or more features of ICT, any unaddressed features must conform to the Functional Performance Criteria specified in Chapter 3. This proposed section is consistent with current agency practice. The Functional Performance Criteria, and the manner in which they are to be used in evaluating equivalent facilitation under proposed E101.2, is discussed in Section IV.E.3 (Rulemaking History – 2010 and 2011 ANPRMs: Significant Issues – Relationship between Functional Performance Criteria and Technical Provisions), and Section V.C (Major Issues - Functional Performance Criteria).

E205 Content

This is an introductory section.

E205.1 General

This section proposes that public-facing content, along with eight specific categories of non-public facing content, must conform to proposed E205. In turn, proposed E205 requires conformance to the Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements specified for Web pages in WCAG 2.0 or ISO 14289-1 (PDF/UA-1), both of which are incorporated by reference in 508 Chapter 1 and 255 Chapter 1. An exception is provided for non-public facing records maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) under federal recordkeeping statutes. These proposed requirements and related exception are also discussed in Section IV.E.1 (Rulemaking History –2010 and 2011 ANPRMs: Significant Issues – Evolving Approaches to Covered Electronic Content), and Section V.A (Major Issues – Electronic Content).

Some file formats, it should be noted, do not directly support accessibility. For example, the JPEG compression standard for digital images does not facilitate embedded text description (commonly referred to as “alt tags”), and the MPEG-4 compression standard for audio and video digital data does not support closed captioning. Conformance may nonetheless be achieved through a variety of techniques, including providing requisite accessibility through the manner in which the inaccessible file is delivered or publicly posted. For example, JPEG photos posted to a website can be associated with descriptive identification using HTML. Photos attached to an email could have the text alternative provided in the body of the email. Similarly, there are commonly available methods for displaying caption text so that it is synchronized with MPEG-4 multimedia.

E205.2 Public Facing

This section proposes that all public-facing content must meet the accessibility requirements in E205.4, which, in turn, requires conformance to WCAG 2.0 Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements specified for Web pages or, where applicable, ISO 14289-1 (PDF/UA-1). Public-facing content subject to this provision would include, for example: agency websites; electronic documents, images or video posted on agency websites; and agency social media sites or postings. Content regardless of form or format—including draft electronic documents—would be covered under this proposed section when public facing. Central to the analysis of whether an electronic document should be considered public facing is the identity of the party making the electronic content available to the public. If a federal agency posts an electronic document on its own website, third-party social media site, or other electronic public forum, that document—whether authored by the agency or a third party —is public facing and must comply with E205.2. Coverage of this broad category of agency-sponsored content is important because the Rehabilitation Act mandates that persons with disabilities—both those employed by the federal government and members of the public—have comparable access to, and use of, electronic information and data relative to persons without disabilities.

Question 14. Is the scope of public facing content covered by proposed E205.2 sufficiently clear? Are there other issues the Board should consider in defining the scope of the term “public facing”?

E205.3 Agency Official Communication

This section proposes that an agency’s non-public facing content be required to meet the accessibility requirements in E205.4 (i.e., WCAG 2.0 Level A and Level AA Success Criteria or PDF/UA-1) when such content (a) constitutes agency official business, and (b) falls within one or more of eight categories of communication. The eight proposed categories are: (1) emergency notifications; (2) initial or final decisions adjudicating administrative claims or proceedings; (3) internal or external program or policy announcements; (4) notices of benefits, program eligibility, employment opportunities or personnel actions; (5) formal acknowledgements or receipts; (6) questionnaires or surveys; (7) templates or forms; and (8) educational or training materials.

While there is no express exception for draft content in E205.3, the Board expects that drafts, by their very nature, would typically fall outside the scope of agency official communications covered by this section. Generally speaking, only final documents and other electronic materials that are ready for dissemination to their intended audience would qualify as the type of content covered by categories 1 through 8. Draft content would, however, fall within the ambit of proposed E205.3 (and, therefore, be required to conform to WCAG 2.0 or PDF/UA-1) when an agency intends a draft to be “final” in the sense that it is being formally disseminated or published for input or comment by its intended audience. For example, if any agency task force is seeking to improve agency-wide telecommuting policies and circulates a draft policy memorandum by email to the office of human resources for review, neither the email nor draft memorandum would be covered under proposed E205.3. However, if instead, the agency task force had completed its draft policy on telecommuting and circulated the draft policy as an email attachment sent to all agency employees soliciting their input and comments, then both the email and attached draft policy memorandum—regardless of format (e.g., word processing document, PDF)—would be covered by this section and, accordingly, need to satisfy the accessibility requirements in E205.4.

Proposed E205.3 also provides an exception for non-public facing content maintained by NARA for archival purposes even if such content otherwise falls into one of the foregoing eight categories. Such electronic records would not need to conform to the accessibility requirements in proposed E205.4 so long as they remained non-public facing. The Board intends the scope of this exception to be limited, and anticipates that it will extend only to non-public facing electronic materials administered or maintained by NARA in compliance with federal recordkeeping statutes and implementing regulations.

E206 Hardware

This is an introductory section.

E206.1 General

This section proposes that components of ICT that are hardware, and transmit information or have a user interface, must conform to the applicable provisions of Chapter 4.

One hardware provision in the existing 508 Standards that has not been retained in the proposed rule is § 1194.23(a). This section has two parts. First, it requires telecommunications products that provide voice communication to provide a standard non-acoustic connection for a TTY unless the product includes a TTY. Second, it requires microphones to be capable of being turned on and off to allow a user to intermix speech with TTY use. Newer technologies for texting have made the requirement for a standard non-acoustic connection for a TTY obsolete. To address the use of TTYs by individuals also using speech or hearing, the Board is proposing to add section 410.6.5 (HCO and VCO Support). Proposed 410.6.5 would support real-time text functionality and address the capacity for users to intermix speech with text. See Section VI.D. (Section-by-Section Analysis – Technical Requirements – 410.6). Comments received in response the 2011 ANPRM did not object to these proposed changes.

E207 Software

This is an introductory section.

E207.1 Software

This section proposes that components of ICT that transmit information or have a user interface—such as are firmware, platforms, or software applications—must conform to the applicable provisions in Chapter 5.

E207.2 WCAG Conformance

This section would require that user interface components, along with the content of platforms and applications, conform to Level A and AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements specified for Web pages in WCAG 2.0. For a more complete discussion of WCAG conformance requirements in the proposed rule, see the discussion in Section IV.E.2 (Rulemaking History – 2010 and 2011 ANPRMs: Significant Issues – Treatment of WCAG 2.0), and Section V.B (Major Issues – WCAG 2.0 Incorporation by Reference).

E208 Support Documentation and Services

This is an introductory section.

E208.1 General

This section proposes to require agencies, when providing support services or documentation for ICT, to do so in conformance to the provisions of Chapter 6.

C. 255 Guidelines: Application and Scoping

These two proposed chapters contain information on the application and administration of the 255 Guidelines. As discussed above, whereas the 508 Standards relate to the accessibility and usability of electronic and information technology, the 255 Guidelines relate to the accessibility and usability of telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment, as defined by the Communications Act.

Because the technologies covered by the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines often have similar features and functional and technical aspects, the standards and guidelines share common requirements. For ease of reference, the Board discusses here only those requirements in the 255 Guidelines that differ from those in the 508 Standards. Requirements not discussed in the section below (or mentioned only in brief detail) should be deemed to be the same for both the 255 Guidelines and 508 Standards.

Of note, there are two provisions in the existing 255 Guidelines which the Board proposes to not include in the proposed rule: §§ 1193.41(i) and 1193.51(d). Section 1193.41(i) requires input controls on telecommunications equipment to provide at least one mode of operation that minimizes the cognitive skills needed by the user. The Advisory Committee was unable to reach consensus on recommendations for requirements to make ICT accessible for individuals with cognitive disabilities, citing a lack of common standards or testable metrics to verify conformance. Consequently, the Advisory Committee recommended deletion of the existing requirement pending future research.

In the 2010 ANPRM, the Board followed this recommendation and proposed removal of the existing functional performance criterion specifically directed to cognitive disabilities. The Board did, however, seek public input on whether other proposed functional performance criteria adequately addressed cognitive impairments, and solicited input on how updated ICT rules might best address such impairments. Commenters responded with a variety of views. Some commenters believed that cognitive disabilities were already sufficiently addressed through other criteria and requirements, while others preferred inclusion of a functional performance criterion for cognitive disabilities but offered no substantive proposals. Still other commenters—particularly those representing the IT community—thought more research was needed before meaningful requirements could be crafted. Given the variety of commenters’ views and the inherent difficulty in creating a single functional performance criterion that adequately covers the wide spectrum of cognitive and intellectual disabilities, the Board elected not to reinstate this functional performance criterion in either the 2011 ANPRM or this NPRM.

We also propose to exclude existing § 1193.51(d) of the 255 Guidelines relating to TTY connectability from the proposed rule for the reasons outlined above in the discussion regarding proposed E206.1 (which, in turn, addresses proposed deletion of a “sister” existing provision in the 508 Standards). See Section VI.B. (Section-by-Section Analysis – 508 Standards: Application and Scoping – E206.1).

255 Chapter 1: Application and Administration

This chapter proposes general requirements reflecting the purpose of the 255 Guidelines (C101.1). It lists referenced standards and where they may be obtained (C102), and provides definitions of terms used in the proposed 255 Guidelines (C103). 255 Chapter 1 proposes to simplify and reorganize similar provisions contained in existing §§ 1193.1 “Purpose” and 1193.3 “Definitions” of the 255 Guidelines.

C101 General

This is an introductory section.

C101.1 Purpose

In keeping with the Board’s statutory charge under the Communications Act, this section states that the purpose of the proposed 255 Guidelines is the provision of scoping and technical requirements for telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment to ensure that such equipment is accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. This section also emphasizes, moreover, that the proposed guidelines are to be applied to the extent required by regulations issued by the Federal Communications Commission under the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (47 U.S.C. 255). As noted previously, the FCC has exclusive authority to enforce Section 255 and issue implementing regulations; the FCC may—but is not required to—adopt the proposed guidelines when finalized as enforceable accessibility standards for manufacturers of telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment.

C101.2 Equivalent Facilitation

This proposed section addresses when telecommunications equipment manufacturers may use equivalent facilitation, and mirrors a corresponding provision in the proposed 508 Standards (E101.2). While the existing 255 Guidelines do not expressly address equivalent facilitation, the concept of allowing alternative technological solutions for accessibility beyond those specified in the guidelines derives from the Appendix to 36 CFR Part 1193 - Advisory Guidance, Introduction, paragraph 1, which notes that “Manufacturers are free to use these [suggested strategies in the Appendix] or other strategies in addressing the guidelines.” We proposed inclusion of this equivalent facilitation provision in the 2011 ANPRM and received no comments.

C101.3 Conventional Industry Tolerances

This proposed section, which has a parallel provision in the proposed 508 Standards (E101.3), would provide that dimensions are subject to conventional industry tolerances except where dimensions are stated as a range. This proposed provision would be new to the 255 Guidelines. It is intended to clarify how dimensions should be interpreted when specified in the text of a guideline or referenced standard.

C101.4 Units of Measurement

This proposed section, which also has a counterpart in the proposed 508 Standards (E101.4), provides that measurements are stated in metric and U.S. customary units and that the values stated in each system (metric and U.S. customary units) may not be exact equivalents. This section would also provide that each system be used independently of the other. This proposed section is new to the 255 Guidelines, and would clarify dimensions stated in the text of the guidelines or referenced standards.

C102 Referenced Standards

This section identifies the consensus standards that would be incorporated by reference in the proposed 255 Guidelines. The section also proposes that, where there is a difference between a provision of the proposed 255 Guidelines and a referenced standard, the provision of the 255 Guidelines would take precedence.

Incorporation by reference of these standards would be an improvement from the existing 255 Guidelines, which contain no referenced standards. The Advisory Committee strongly recommended the adoption of specific accessibility consensus standards in order to promote harmonization. The adoption of consensus standards results in a more unified regulatory environment in which all participants benefit from clarity and simplicity.

The standards listed in proposed C102 would apply to ICT subject to the 255 Guidelines to the extent that it is readily achievable to do so. The Board is proposing to incorporate by reference the same standards as those incorporated in the proposed 508 Standards. For a discussion of these standards, see Section VI.B (Section-by-Section Analysis – 508 Standards: Application and Scoping – E102).

As noted above, one of the standards proposed for incorporation is WCAG 2.0. As applied telecommunications equipment, this would require manufacturers to conform to WCAG 2.0 when providing electronic content integral to the use of their equipment (under proposed C203.1), a user interface (under proposed C205.2), or support documentation (under proposed C206.1 and 602.3). This would include, for example, consumer manuals for telecommunications equipment posted on manufacturer websites, online registration forms, and interactive consumer support interfaces. A similar provision was proposed in the 2011 ANPRM. Commenters strongly supported incorporation of WCAG 2.0 to web content, but some telecommunications industry groups objected to application of this standard outside the web environment. The Board’s bases for applying WCAG 2.0 to non-web ICT is detailed above in the Major Issues section. See Section V.B.2 (Major Issues – WCAG 2.0 Incorporation by Reference – Justification for Applying WCAG 2.0 to Non-Web ICT).

Question 15. The Access Board requests data or other information from telecommunications equipment manufacturers regarding the potential costs and benefits of incorporating WCAG 2.0 by reference and applying its success criteria to both web and non-web environments. What difficulties, if any, do telecommunications equipment manufacturers foresee in applying WCAG 2.0 outside the web environment? Does the WCAG2ICT Task Force’s final report provide sufficient guidance concerning application of WCAG 2.0 to non-web ICT? If not, what additional guidance would telecommunications equipment manufacturers find helpful?

C103 Defined Terms

This section sets forth definitions of terms used in, or integral to, the proposed 255 Guidelines. Some of the definitions have been carried over in whole or in part from the existing 255 Guidelines, while others represent terms that are new to these guidelines. Proposed C103 would include nearly all of the same defined terms in the proposed 508 Standards, with the exception of one term (i.e., “agency”) that has no application in the guidelines. We also propose to revise or delete several definitions from the existing 255 Guidelines. Highlighted below are notable changes to, or deletion of, defined terms in the existing 255 Guidelines. For a complete discussion of all defined terms, see Section VI.B. (Section-by-Section Analysis – 508 Standards: Application and Scoping – E103.4).

As with the proposed 508 Standards, the Board proposes to replace the term “electronic and information technology (E&IT)”—which appears in both the existing 255 Guidelines and the 508 Standards—with “information and communication technology (ICT).” The scope and application of the term “ICT” are discussed in detail in the Section-by-Section Analysis of the proposed 508 Standards. See Section VI.B (Section-by-Section Analysis – 508 Standards: Application and Scoping). We note here that ICT is a broad term that encompasses not only information technology and other electronic systems and processes covered by the 508 Standards, but also telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment subject to the 255 Guidelines. The term “ICT,” moreover, embraces not only telecommunications equipment, but also its related software and electronic content.

We also propose to revise definitions for “customer premises equipment” (CPE) and “specialized customer premises equipment” found in the existing 255 Guidelines to be consistent with current FCC regulations implementing Section 255 of the Communications Act. (See 47 C.F.R. Part 14 (2013)).

Additionally, the Board proposes to add several terms that would be new to the 255 Guidelines. As with the proposed 255 Guidelines, these newly defined terms are being proposed to reflect, among other things, new terminology used in the proposed guidelines or technological changes. One proposed new term is “255 Guidelines.” This term is newly defined in order to provide consistent cross-reference within the guidelines to all chapters that apply to Section 255-covered manufacturers of telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment, namely: 255 Chapters 1 and 2 (36 CFR Part 1194, Appendix B), and Chapters 3 through 6 (36 CFR Part 1194, Appendix C). This definition is consistent with proposed § 1194.2, as well as usage of the term throughout this NPRM.

Other newly defined terms in the proposed 255 Guidelines are: “application,” “assistive technologies,” “audio description,” “authoring tool,” “closed functionality,” “content,” “hardware,” “keyboard,” “label,” “name,” “operable part,” “programmatically determinable,” “text,” “menu,” “platform accessibility services,” “platform software,” “real-time text,” “software,” “terminal,” and “Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP).” Each of these new terms is discussed above in the context of the proposed 508 Standards. See Section VI.B. (Section-by-Section Analysis – 508 Standards: Application and Scoping – E103.4).

Lastly, proposed C103.4 would exclude several terms that are defined in the existing 255 Guidelines. These terms are not included in this proposed rule because either the proposed technical requirement associated with the term sufficiently conveys its meaning (i.e., “accessible,” “readily achievable,” “alternate formats,” “manufacturer,” and “telecommunications equipment”), or the term is not used in the proposed 255 Guidelines (i.e., “agency,” “alternate methods,” “peripheral devices,” and “product”).

255 Chapter 2: Scoping Requirements

This chapter proposes scoping for requirements applicable to telecommunications equipment manufacturers in the design, development, or fabrication of covered ICT that is newly released, upgraded, or substantially changed from an earlier version or model—that is, the types of ICT that would be required to conform to the proposed functional performance criteria and technical requirements in the 255 Guidelines, as well as the conditions under which these provisions would apply.

Proposed 255 Chapter 2 would differ substantially from its counterpart chapter in the proposed 508 Standards due to the exclusion of several provisions that are inapplicable in the context of Section 255. 255 Chapter 2 also simplifies and reorganizes provisions in existing 255 Guidelines §§ 1193.21, 1193.23, 1193.31, 1193.33, 1193.39 and 1193.41. All scoping provisions would now be located in this chapter.

C201 Application

This is an introductory section.

C201.1 Scope

This section proposes that telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment, as well as related software, would be required to comply with applicable 255 Guidelines when newly released, upgraded, or substantially modified from an earlier version or model.

C201.2 Readily Achievable

The section proposes that, when a telecommunications equipment manufacturer determines that conformance to one or more requirements in Chapter 4 (Hardware) or Chapter 5 (Software) would not be readily achievable, it shall ensure that the equipment or service is compatible with existing peripheral devices or specialized customer premises equipment commonly used by individuals with disabilities to the extent readily achievable. This section mirrors § 1193.21 of the existing 255 Guidelines.

C201.3 Access to Functionality

This section proposes that telecommunications equipment manufacturers ensure that ICT is accessible to, and usable by, individuals with disabilities by providing direct access to all functionality of ICT where readily achievable. This provision is consistent with existing 255 Guidelines § 1193.31.

C201.4 Prohibited Reduction of Accessibility, Usability and Compatibility

This section proposes to prohibit changes in covered ICT that decreases, or has the effect of decreasing, its net accessibility, usability, or compatibility. This provision largely mirrors existing 255 Guidelines § 1193.39. Proposed C201.4 is intended to ensure that accessibility features in existing technology would not be compromised by later alterations in product design. An exception allows for the discontinuation of a product. This provision was proposed in the 2010 ANPRM, but inadvertently omitted from the 2011 ANPRM.

C201.5 Design, Development and Fabrication

This section proposes a general requirement that telecommunications equipment manufacturers evaluate the accessibility, usability, and interoperability of covered ICT during its design, development, and fabrication. This provision is largely based on § 1193.23(a) of the existing 255 Guidelines. We have not, however, retained § 1193.23(b) of the existing 255 Guidelines, which requires telecommunications equipment manufacturers to consider involving people with disabilities in various aspects of product design and development. We do not include this provision in the proposed 255 Guidelines because it is non-mandatory, advisory material only.

C202 Functional Performance Criteria

This is an introductory section.

C202.1 General

This section proposes that when the technical provisions of Chapter 4 and 5 do not address one or more features of covered ICT, the features not addressed must conform to the Functional Performance Criteria specified in Chapter 3. This proposed section is consistent with 255 Guidelines §1193.41. For a more complete discussion of this section, see Section V.C (Major Issues – Relationship between Functional Performance Criteria and Technical Provisions).

C203 Electronic Content

This is an introductory section.

C203.1 General

The section proposes to require content integral to the use of covered ICT to conform to Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements specified for Web pages in WCAG 2.0 or ISO 14289-1(PDF/UA-1), both of which are incorporated by reference in 255 Chapter 1. The meaning and application of this provision is discussed in greater detail in Sections V.A (Major Issues – Covered Electronic Content). A similar provision was proposed in the 2011 ANPRM. We received no adverse comments.

C204 Hardware

This is an introductory section.

C204.1 General

This section proposes that, where covered ICT hardware transmits information or has a user interface, such hardware must conform to the applicable provisions in Chapter 4 (Hardware). Two of the main covered hardware components—real-time text and assistive technology—are discussed above in the Major Issues section. See Section V.D (Major Issues - Real-Time Text), and Section V.E (Major Issues - Assistive Technology).

While the requirements applicable to Section 255-covered hardware are generally the same as those applied in the 508 Standards, proposed C204.1 provides one exception, which in turn, excepts Section 255-covered ICT from conforming to five specific requirements. These exceptions are proposed due to considerations unique to telecommunications equipment. Features associated with these proposed exceptions are not typically found on hand-held portable devices subject to the 255 Guidelines, such as mobile phones. The five excepted requirements for which we are proposing relief, along with the underlying rationale, are listed below:

402 Closed Functionality. If applied to ICT covered by the 255 Guidelines, proposed 402 would require all products with displays to be speech enabled. It would be unreasonable to apply this requirement to consumer products that are less technologically advanced, and, moreover, doing so would likely eliminate less expensive telephony from the marketplace.

407.11 Keys, Tickets and Fare Cards and 409 Transactional Outputs. Keys, tickets, and fare cards are not typically used to operate ICT subject only to the 255 Guidelines. Similarly, these types of products do not typically provide transactional outputs covered by proposed 409.

407.12 Reach Height and 408 Display Screens. The technical requirements specified for reach ranges (proposed 407.12) and display screens (408) are only intended to apply to stationary ICT. It would thus be inappropriate to apply these requirements to mobile telecommunications equipment subject to the 255 Guidelines (e.g., mobile phones, cable modems).

When these five provisions are applicable in the proposed 508 Standards, the exception for commercial non-availability would apply (under proposed E202.6.2), thereby requiring a federal agency to provide a user with disabilities access to, and use of, information by an alternative means that meets his or her identified needs.

Question 16. Is telecommunications equipment covered by Section 255 sufficiently unique to warrant exemption from the five hardware-related accessibility requirements listed in proposed C204.1? Should exceptions from other hardware requirements be added, or, conversely, should any of these five proposed exceptions be removed?

C205 Software

This is an introductory section.

C205.1 General

This section proposes that, where components of ICT transmit information or have a user interface, they must conform to the applicable provisions in Chapter 5 (Software).

C205.2 WCAG Conformance

This section proposes that specified components of covered ICT—namely, user interface components, platform content, and application content—must conform to Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements specified for Web pages in WCAG 2.0, which is incorporated by reference in Chapter 1. This requirement is new to the 255 Guidelines. In the Major Issues section above, the Board discusses the benefits of, and issues attendant to, incorporation of WCAG 2.0 into the 255 Guidelines and 508 Standards. See Section V.B (Major Issues – WCAG 2.0 Incorporation by Reference).

C206 Support Documentation and Services

This is an introductory section.

C206.1 General

This section proposes to require that where support documentation or services are provided, they must conform to the proposed provisions of Chapter 6. This proposed requirement is from the existing 255 Guidelines § 1193.33.

D. Functional Performance Criteria and Technical Requirements

Appendix C sets forth proposed functional performance criteria (Chapter 3) and technical requirements (Chapters 4 through 6) that are referenced by, and applied in, the Application and Scoping provisions in the 508 Standards (Appendix A) and 255 Guidelines (Appendix B). The proposed requirements in Appendix C are based on recommendations from the Advisory Committee unless otherwise noted.

Chapter 3: Functional Performance Criteria

Chapter 3 contains proposed functional performance criteria, which are outcome-based provisions that apply when applicable technical requirements (i.e., Chapters 4 and 5) do not address one or more features of ICT. All sections of this chapter are referenced by scoping provisions in 508 Chapter 2 and in 255 Chapter 2. These functional performance criteria would also be used to determine equivalent facilitation under both the proposed 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines. Accordingly, they are referenced by the equivalent facilitation provisions in 508 Chapter 1 and 255 Chapter 1.

301 General

This is an introductory section.

301.1 Scope

This section proposes that the functional performance criteria in Chapter 3 be applied where either (a) required by 508 Chapter 2 or 255 Chapter 2, or (b) where referenced by other requirements.

302.1 Without Vision

This section proposes to revise the criterion for users who are blind. This provision would clarify the requirements in existing 508 Standards §1194.31(a) and 255 Guidelines §1193.41(a) by specifying that provision of a mode of operation without vision is required when the ICT otherwise provides a visual mode of operation.

302.2 With Limited Vision

This section proposes to revise the functional performance criterion for users with limited vision so that, where a visual mode of operation is provided, one mode of operation that magnifies, one mode that reduces the field of vision, and one mode that allows user control of contrast would be required. This provision contains significant changes from the functional performance criteria in the existing 508 Standards §1194.31(b) and existing 255 Guidelines §1193.41(b). Existing 508 Standards §1194.31(b) requires at least one mode of operation and information retrieval that does not require visual acuity greater than 20/70 to be provided in both audio and enlarged print output working together or independently. Existing 255 Guidelines §1193.41(b) is similar, except that it defines users with limited vision as users possessing visual acuity that ranges between 20/70 and 20/200. For a further discussion of the history of these proposed changes, see Section IV.E.6 (Rulemaking History – 2010 and 2011 ANPRMs: Significant Issues – Modifications to the Functional Performance Criteria for Limited Vision).

Question 17. Some commenters raised concerns with proposed 302.2 With Limited Vision. They recommended that the Board establish thresholds for how much magnification, reduction, or contrast is sufficient to meet the provision. Should proposed 302.2 be more specific, and if so, what should the thresholds be? Please cite a scientific basis for threshold recommendations.

302.3 Without Perception of Color

This section proposes to add a new functional performance criterion for users with color blindness to better map to technical specifications in the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines. Section 302.3 would require at least one mode of operation that does not require user perception of color where a visual mode of operation is provided. The technical provisions in existing 508 Standards §§ 1194.25(g) and 1194.21(i), existing 255 Guidelines § 1193.41(c), as well as proposed 407.7, prohibit color coding from being the only means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response, or distinguishing a visual element.

302.4 Without Hearing

This section proposes to revise the criterion for users who are deaf. This provision would clarify the requirements in existing 508 Standards §1194.31(c) and existing 255 Guidelines §1193.41(d) by specifying that provision of a mode of operation without hearing is required when the ICT otherwise provides an auditory mode of operation.

302.5 With Limited Hearing

This section proposes to revise the criterion for users with limited hearing. The existing 508 Standards require at least one mode of operation and information retrieval to be provided in an enhanced auditory fashion. The existing 255 Guidelines require that input, control, and mechanical functions be operable with limited or no hearing. Proposed 302.5 is more specific, and would require at least one mode of operation that improves clarity, one mode that reduces background noise, and one mode that allows user control of volume, when an auditory mode of speech is provided.

302.6 Without Speech

This proposed section would clarify the requirements in existing 508 Standards §1194.31(e) and existing 255 Guidelines §1193.41(h) by specifying that provision of a mode of operation without speech is only required when the ICT provides a spoken mode of operation. This section is primarily intended to address the needs of users who are unable to speak.

302.7 With Limited Manipulation

In this section, the Board proposes to address the functional performance criterion for users with limited manipulation. The provision would require that, when ICT provides a manual mode of operation, it must also provide at least one mode of operation that does not require fine motor control or operation of more than one control at the same time. The existing 508 Standards address the needs of users with limited manipulation and users with limited reach or strength in the same criterion (see § 1194.31(f)). By contrast, the existing 255 Guidelines address the needs of users with limited manual dexterity and users with limited reach or strength in different provisions (see §§ 1193.41(e) and (f)). Because these conditions do not necessarily exist together, their respective accessibility solutions are best presented separately. The criterion for users with limited reach or strength is set forth in proposed 302.8.

302.8 With Limited Reach and Strength

In this section, the Board proposes to address the functional performance criterion for users with limited reach or strength. The existing 508 Standards address the needs of users with limited manipulation and users with limited reach or strength in the same criterion (see § 1194.31(f)). By contrast, the existing 255 Guidelines address the needs of users with limited manual dexterity and users with limited reach or strength in different criteria (see §§ 1193.41(e) and (f)). Because these conditions do not necessarily exist together, their respective accessibility solutions are best presented separately. The criterion for users with limited manipulation is set forth in proposed 302.7.

Chapter 4: Hardware

Chapter 4 contains proposed requirements for hardware that transmits information or has a user interface. Examples of such hardware include computers, information kiosks, and multi-function copy machines. This chapter draws substantively from existing 508 Standards, as well as the technical requirements for automatic teller machines and fare machines in the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines. See 36 CFR Part 1191, Appendix D, section 707. The requirements in this chapter apply under both the proposed 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines absent an express exception.

Most of the proposed hardware requirements are new to the 255 Guidelines. This is because the existing 255 Guidelines parallel only existing 508 Standards §§ 1194.23 Telecommunications products, 1194.31 Functional performance criteria, and 1194.41 Information, documentation, and support. The existing 255 Guidelines do not currently address the other 508 requirements in Subpart B Technical Standards, namely 508 Standards §§ 1194.21 Software applications and operating systems, 1194.22 Web-based intranet and Internet information and applications, 1194.24 Video and multimedia products, 1194.25 Self-contained, closed products, and 1194.26 Desktop and portable computers. A major objective of this rulemaking is to harmonize the 255 Guidelines and 508 Standards.

Yet, while new to the 255 Guidelines, these proposed hardware rules are generally not expected to have a significant cost impact. Due to convergent technologies, a telecommunications product that previously stood alone may now be part of a more complex system. For example VoIP telephone systems may include a web interface used to operate the telephone. While these products have long been required under existing guidelines to be accessible, see, e.g., 255 Guidelines § 1193.41(a) (requiring telecommunications products be operable without vision), the product-by-product based structure of the guidelines results in a multiplicity of accessibility requirements. This proposed rule aims to address this problem by taking a functional approach across technologies, as well as by adding clarity and detail as to what accessible means. For these reasons, the proposed rule is not expected to impose material new costs on manufacturers of telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment.

With respect to an increasingly ubiquitous type of ICT hardware—self-service transaction machines—the Board has worked collaboratively with the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Transportation (DOT) to develop a common set of technical requirements that could be referenced and scoped by these agencies in their respective rulemaking initiatives. While each agency has different regulatory authority, self-service transaction machines can be found in a variety of settings, and the accessibility barriers are generally common across these settings. In late 2013, DOT published a final rule implementing the Air Carrier Access Act that addresses accessibility standards for airline websites and automated kiosks located at domestic airports. See 78 FR 67882 (Nov. 12, 2013). The DOT requirements for automated kiosks are consistent with existing 508 Standards for self-contained, closed products. In 2010, DOJ published an ANPRM to solicit public comment on accessibility requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act for furniture and equipment. See 75 FR 43452 (July 26, 2010). Such requirements would cover, among other things, kiosks, interactive transaction machines, and point-of-sale devices. In a future rulemaking, the Board may update the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines to harmonize those guidelines with the proposed 508 Standards and the 255 Guidelines, once finalized.

401 General

This is an introductory section.

401.1 Scope

This section proposes that the technical requirements for hardware in Chapter 4 be applied where (a) required by 508 Chapter 2 or 255 Chapter 2, or (b) where referenced by other requirements. Assistive technology hardware would be excepted from conformance with this chapter. This exception is proposed in response to public comments to the 2010 and 2011 ANPRMs that sought clarification on this point. Commenters expressed the concern that, should this scoping section be read as obligating assistive technology hardware to meet the requirements of this chapter, some assistive technology would not be able to serve its function. For example, people with very low muscle tone might use a specialized membrane keyboard that is completely flat, with no tactilely discernible separation between the keys, because it is the most optimal input device for them. This type of specialized keyboard, however, would not be permitted under proposed 407.3, which addresses tactilely discernible input controls. In light of the specialized nature of assistive technology, the Board proposes it be excepted from the technical requirements in this chapter.

402 Closed Functionality

This is an introductory section.

402.1 General

This section proposes to require ICT with closed functionality to be operable without requiring the user to attach or install assistive technology, with the exception of personal headsets or other audio couplers. This provision is needed because, when ICT has closed functionality, the end user typically does not have the option of installing or attaching assistive technology. Closed functionality can also apply to the platform user interface. This is sometimes referred to as “firmware” because it has a software aspect, but is not alterable by the end-user and the user interface is necessarily tied to the hardware platform. The proposed technical requirements for software (Chapter 5) do not specifically address closed functionality, except for the interoperability of software and assistive technology.

Components of ICT subject to the 255 Guidelines would be excepted from the requirements of this section (see C204.1 Exception) because such telecommunications equipment typically has closed functionality. For example, it is often impossible to attach or install assistive technology, such as a specialized keyboard.

Variable message signs (VMS) frequently are installed in federal buildings and facilities to provide information about ongoing events. Some VMS also convey information relevant to emergencies. VMS with closed functionality would be covered by this section. The Board is currently unaware of any VMS technology that provides audible output. However, there is one voluntary consensus standard addressing accessibility of VMS with respect to the needs of persons with low vision. The most recent edition of the International Code Council (ICC)’s “Accessible and Usable Buildings and Facilities” (ICC A117.1-2009) contains specifications for making high-resolution and low-resolution VMS more accessible to people with low vision. For low-resolution signs, these requirements address signage characters (e.g., case, style, height, width, stroke width, and spacing), as well as other characteristics relating to height above the floor, finish, contrast, protective coverings, brightness, and rate of change. High-resolution VMS need only comply with the provisions for character case (uppercase), protective coverings, brightness, and rate of change since they typically meet or exceed the other specifications. In addition, section 1110.4 of the 2012 edition of the International Building Code requires VMS in transportation facilities and in emergency shelters to comply with ICC A117.1 unless equivalent information is provided audibly. The IBC, however, does not require the VMS, itself, to provide the audible message. For example, in a transportation facility, information equivalent to the VMS display can be provided through a public address system.

Question 18. In the final rule, the Board is considering incorporating by reference the requirements for VMS in ICC A117.1-2009—or its successor ICC A117.1-2015, if the standard has been finalized by that time—in order to make such signs more accessible to individuals who are blind or have low vision. The Board seeks comment on the advisability of incorporating by reference the requirements in ICC A117.1-2009 (or its successor) for variable message signs. Are there technologies that would allow a user to receive an audible message generated by the VMS sign? If so, the Board requests that commenters provide information regarding this technology. Until VMS can be made directly accessible to persons who are blind, we recognize that VMS would have to be paired with audible public address announcements. If VMS cannot be speech enabled, should the Board require VMS to, at least, be accessible to people with low vision?

402.2 Speech-Output Enabled

This section proposes to require ICT with closed functionality that has a display screen to be speech-output enabled. This means that operating instructions and orientation, visible transaction prompts, user input verification, error messages, and all displayed information necessary for full use, would have to be accessible to and usable by individuals with vision impairments. In actual practice, for all but the simplest ICT (e.g., hardware without display screens), this means ensuring that the ICT has built-in speech output. This explicit requirement would be new to the 508 Standards. That is, while the requirement in existing 508 Standards §1194.25(a) has been interpreted as requiring ICT with closed functionality to provide speech output since that is the only means of making such products “usable by people with disabilities without requiring an end-user to attach assistive technology,” there is currently no express mandate for speech output. This proposed section contains two exceptions, which exempt specific types of information from speech output requirements, as discussed below.

Exception 1 to 402.2 Speech-Output Enabled

This section proposes to exclude from the requirement for speech output any user inputted content that is not displayed as entered for security purposes, such as when asterisks are shown on-screen instead of personal identification numbers. Excluded material may be delivered as audible tones, rather than as speech.

Exception 2 to 402.2 Speech-Output Enabled

This section proposes to permit visible output that is not necessary for the transaction being conducted—such as advertisements and similar material—from the requirement for audible output.

402.2.1 User Control

This section proposes requirements for user control of speech-enabled output concerning interruption upon selection of a transaction, as well as repeat and pause capabilities. This section is similar to § 1194.25(e) of the existing 508 Standards.

402.2.2 Braille Instructions

This section proposes that, where displays for ICT with closed functionality are required to have speech output, instructions for initiating the speech mode be provided in braille. Braille instructions would be required to conform to specifications for braille in the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines. See ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines, 36 CFR Part 1191, Appendix D, section 703.3. This requirement would be new to the 508 Standards. For telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment subject to Section 255, this requirement is inapplicable; an exception to proposed C204.1 expressly exempts such ICT from this hardware requirement. This proposal was included in the 2011 ANPRM, and the Board received no comments.

402.3 Volume

This section proposes to require two alternate standards for volume control and output amplification on ICT with closed functionality that delivers sound, depending on whether such sound is being conveyed for private or non-private listening. An exception also provides that ICT conforming to 410.2, which addresses volume gain for ICT with two-way voice communication, would be exempted from complying with this section.

402.3.1 Private Listening

This section proposes to require that, where ICT subject to 402.3 provides a mechanism for private listening—such as a handset or headphone jack—it must have a mode of operation for controlling the volume, and provide a means for effective magnetic wireless coupling to hearing technologies. This proposed requirement would be new to the 508 Standards.

402.3.2 Non-private Listening

This section proposes to require that, where ICT subject to 402.3 provides non-private listening, incremental volume control must be provided with output amplification up to a level of at least 65 dB. In addition, where the ambient noise level of the environment is above 45 dB, a volume gain of at least 20 dB above the ambient level would be required and must be user selectable. This provision would require a function to be provided to automatically reset the volume to the default level after every use. This section closely corresponds to § 1194.25(f) in the existing 508 Standards.

402.4 Characters

This section proposes to require that at least one mode of characters displayed on a screen be in sans serif font. In addition, where ICT does not provide a screen enlargement feature, characters would be required to have a minimum height requirement of 3/16 inch based on the uppercase letter “I.” This section would also require that characters contrast with their background with either light characters on a dark background or dark characters on a light background. This section would be new to the 508 Standards.

403 Biometrics

This is an introductory section.

403.1 General

This section proposes to prohibit biometrics from being the only means for user identification or control unless at least two different biometric options using different biological characteristics are provided. This new exception was recommended by the Advisory Committee. Without the added exception, the language in this section is substantially unchanged from § 1194.25(d) of the 508 Standards, but would be new to the 255 Guidelines.

404 Preservation of Information Provided for Accessibility

This is an introductory section.

404.1 General

This section proposes to prohibit ICT that transmits or converts information or communication from removing non-proprietary information provided for accessibility or, if the non-proprietary information or communication is removed, this section would require that it be restored upon delivery. For example, a video or multimedia presentation with closed captioning would be required to retain the caption encoding, or, if removed in transmission, then restore such encoding upon delivery. This provision closely models §§ 1194.23(j) and 1193.37 of the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines, respectively.

405 Flashing

This is an introductory section.

405.1 General

This section proposes that, where ICT emits lights in flashes, there can be no more than three flashes in any one-second period. An exception would allow small flashes not exceeding the general flash and red flash thresholds defined in Success Criterion 2.3.1 of WCAG 2.0 because such flashes do not pose seizure risks to users. This requirement is based on recommendations from the Advisory Committee. This proposed section closely corresponds to existing 508 Standards §§ 1194.21(k), 1194.22(j), and 1194.25(i), and is similar to § 1193.43(f) of the existing 255 Guidelines. The flash rate specification in this section is supported by scientific studies on seizures and photosensitivity.9

406 Standard Connections

This is an introductory section.

406.1 General

This section proposes that, where ICT provides data connections used for input and output, at least one of each type of data connection conform to industry standard non-proprietary formats, e.g., jacks and plugs. This proposed section closely corresponds to § 1194.26(d) of the existing 508 Standards and § 1193.51(a) of the existing 255 Guidelines. The intent of this provision is to support compatibility with assistive technology hardware.

407 Operable Parts

This is an introductory section.

407.1 General

This section addresses accessibility features of operable parts—such as keys and controls—when part of the user interface is hardware. This section proposes to require operable parts of ICT to conform to the technical requirements in proposed 407.2, 407.3, and 407.4. This section is consistent with requirements in existing 508 Standards §§ 1194.21 and 1194.25, along with § 1193.41(f) of the existing 255 Guidelines.

407.2 Contrast

This section proposes that keys and controls, where provided, contrast visually from background surfaces. Characters and symbols would have to provide this contrast with either light characters or symbols on a dark background or dark characters or symbols on a light background. The goal of this section is to make operable parts of hardware on ICT more usable for persons with low vision. A contrast requirement for hardware was recommended by the Advisory Committee. It would be new to the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines.

407.3 Tactilely Discernible

This section proposes to require that at least one tactilely discernible input control conforming to the requirements of this section be provided for each function. ICT containing touchscreens is widely used in the marketplace. Touchscreens currently are not generally tactilely discernible. This requirement would not prohibit use of touchscreens, membrane keys, or gesture input, provided there is at least one alternative method of input that is tactilely discernible. The intent of this proposed section is to address the difficulty certain people with visual and dexterity impairments often have when using touchscreens. This section, which contains subsections for three types of functions (i.e., identification, alphabetic keys, and numeric keys) is new to the 255 Guidelines, but is consistent with existing 508 Standards §§ 1194.23(k)(1)-(k)(4), with some changes as discussed below.

The Board is also proposing an exception to the requirement for tactile discernibility for touchscreen-based devices in today’s marketplace that have proven to be accessible to—and popular with—people with visual disabilities. Specifically, the proposed exception would exempt devices for personal use offering input controls that (a) are audibly discernible without activation, and (b) operable by touch. Examples of currently available devices without tactilely discernible keyboards that are still navigable and usable by individuals with visual disabilities include devices offered by Apple with the iOS-based VoiceOver feature, such as the iPhone® and iPad®. Technology has evolved to the point where touch screens can be made navigable by blind users. Keyboards are an optional design feature. This proposed exception would be a significant departure from the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines, but more accurately reflects the state of current technology. We welcome comment on this proposed approach.

In addition, the Board is considering adding to the final rule a requirement that at least one type of input technology on ICT with touch screens be compatible with a prosthetic, similar to the requirement in existing 255 Guidelines § 1193.51(c).

Question 19. Does the proposed exception to the requirement for tactilely discernible input controls strike the appropriate balance so that it permits innovative accessibility approaches for individuals with visual impairments without being overbroad? Should there be additional requirements for touchscreens? For example, should the Board require touchscreens to be compatible with prosthetic devices?

407.3.1 Identification

This section proposes to require input controls to be tactilely discernible without activation, as well as operable by touch. It also would require key surfaces outside active areas of display screens to be raised above their surrounding surfaces. The Board notes that, by requiring raised key surfaces, it does not thereby intend to prohibit contouring of keys. Users with limited manual dexterity may prefer concave keys. Contoured keys would be permitted under proposed 407.3.1, for example, by providing keys with raised edges and concave centers, as is often used on computer keyboards and landline telephone keypads. This section is new to the 255 Guidelines, but is similar to existing 508 Standards §§ 1194.23(k)(1), 1194.25(c), and 1194.26(b). It is also consistent with the requirements for input controls in the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines. See 36 CFR Part 1191, Appendix D, section 707. This is not a material change from the existing standards, and therefore, imposes no new costs.

Question 20. Some industry commenters to the 2011 ANPRM suggested that the Board permit concave—as well as raised—key surfaces. What would be the impact on accessibility if proposed 407.3.1 instead prohibited key surfaces outside the active area of the display screen from being flush with surrounding surfaces?

407.3.2 Alphabetic Keys

This section proposes to require alphabetic keys, where provided, to be arranged in a traditional QWERTY layout, with tactilely distinct letter “F” and “J” keys. The requirement for tactilely discernible home row keys derives from existing 508 Standards § 1194.23(k)(1), but would be a new requirement for the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines. The intent of this section is to address identification and orientation when alphabetic key entry is used. This section was added to the proposed rule at the request of commenters to the 2011 ANPRM, who suggested that a requirement for alphabetic keys was needed to complement the proposed requirement for numeric key layout (proposed 407.3.3). Where a numeric keypad with an alphabetic overlay is provided (such as on a telephone keypad), the relationships between letters and digits would be required to conform to ITU-T Recommendation E.161, as incorporated by reference in 508 Chapter 1 and 255 Chapter 1.

This requirement for a QWERTY layout in keyboards and conformance to ITU-T Recommendation E.161, while new to the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines, represents current design practice. Accordingly, there should be no additional cost associated with this provision.

407.3.3 Numeric Keys

This section proposes to require numeric keys, where provided, to be arranged in a 12-key ascending or descending keyboard layout, with a tactilely distinct number “5” key. The requirement for a tactilely discernible “5” key derives from existing 508 Standards § 1194.23(k)(1), but would be a new requirement for the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines. The intent of this section is to address identification and orientation when numeric data entry is used.

407.4 Key Repeat

This section proposes to require that, where a keyboard with a key repeat feature is provided, the delay before activation of the key repeat feature must be fixed at, or adjustable to, 2 seconds minimum. The intent of this section is to address the unintentional activation of keys by people with dexterity impairments. The proposed requirement closely corresponds to existing 508 Standards §§ 1194.23(k)(3), 1194.25(c), and 1194.26(b), but is new to the 255 Guidelines. Because telecommunications products generally do not have a key repeat feature, the Board expects the impact of this provision on telecommunications equipment manufacturers to be negligible.

407.5 Timed Response

This section proposes to require that where a timed response is required, ICT would have to alert the user visually, as well as by touch or sound. It would also have to provide the user an opportunity to indicate that more time is needed. The intent of this section is to afford people with certain disabilities—namely, those relating to manual dexterity, cognitive disabilities, or otherwise affecting response time—additional time to complete a task, if needed. The proposed requirement is consistent with existing 255 Guidelines § 1193.41(g), and closely corresponds to existing 508 Standards §§ 1194.25(b) and 1194.22(p).

407.6 Status Indicators

This section would require status indicators, including all locking or toggle controls or keys, such as “Caps Lock” and “Num Lock,” to be discernible visually and by either touch or sound. The intent is to ensure that users who are blind can determine the status of locking or toggle keys audibly or by touch, and that users who are deaf can make this determination visually. This proposed provision closely corresponds to existing 508 Standards §§ 1194.23(k)(4), 1194.25(c), and 1194.26(b), but would be new to the 255 Guidelines. While new to the 255 Guidelines, status indicators for Caps Lock and Num Lock controls represent current design practice. Accordingly, there should be no additional cost associated with this provision.

407.7 Color

This section proposes to prohibit color-coding from being the only means of conveying information, indicating an action, prompting a response, or distinguishing a visual element. The proposed section is the same as existing 508 Standards § 1195.25(g), and is consistent with 255 Guidelines § 1193.41(c). The use of color is also addressed in existing 508 Standards § 1194.22(c), which requires that Web pages “be designed so that all information conveyed with color is also available without color, for example from context or mark up.” The intent of the proposed section is to address the needs of people who are color blind or have low vision. The proposed prohibition on color-coding represents current practice in the design of electronic content and, therefore, should not result in any additional cost.

407.8 Audio Signaling

This section proposes to prohibit audio signaling from being the only means of conveying information, indicating an action, or prompting a response. For example, when a landline telephones provides a stutter tone to indicate a voice mail message, such a tone is typically accompanied by an activated light on the phone. This proposal closely parallels the prohibition in existing 508 Standards § 1194.25(g) against use of color as the only means of conveying information. The section is intended to address the needs of individuals with hearing impairments in the same way that proposed 407.7 addresses the needs of persons who have color blindness. Although an express prohibition on audio signaling would be new to the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines, such a prohibition is implied by the existing functional performance criteria (508 Standards § 1194.31(c)), and represents current industry practice. This proposed provision should not, therefore, result in any significant cost increase.

407.9 Operation

This section would require ICT with operable parts to provide at least one mode of operation that is operable with one hand, and prohibits operable parts requiring tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist. The force required to activate operable parts would be limited to 5 lbs. (22.2 N) maximum. The proposed requirement closely corresponds to existing 508 Standards §§ 1194.23(k)(2), 1194.25(c), and 1194.26(b), and is consistent with existing 255 Guidelines §§ 1193.41(e) and (f). This section is aimed at addressing the needs of people with manual dexterity impairments when using operable parts.

407.10 Privacy

This proposed section would require the same degree of privacy of input and output for all individuals. For example, individuals using a speech output mode must be afforded the same degree of privacy as those using a display screen. The proposed requirement would be new to both the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines. ATMs and Fare Vending Machines, as addressed in the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines (36 CFR Part 1191, Appendix D, section 707.4), typically support compliance with this requirement by providing a handset or audio jack. Additionally, this proposed section would prohibit screens from automatically going blank when the speech function is engaged. Many people with low vision use speech output to supplement or reinforce on-screen prompts. Consequently, automatically blanking the screen would render the ICT less accessible to these users. Provision of an option for users to blank the screen, however, may be helpful to individuals who desire greater privacy.

407.11 Keys, Tickets, and Fare Cards

This section would require that, when kiosks or other ICT provide a key, ticket, or fare card, those objects have a tactilely discernible orientation, if orientation is important to the object’s further use. This requirement would be new to the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines, and is intended to address the needs of individuals with visual impairments. This section is identical to the recently issued final rule by the Department of Transportation concerning the accessibility of tickets and boarding passes issued by shared-use automated kiosks at airport facilities. See Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel: Accessibility of Web Sites and Automated Kiosks at U.S. Airports, 78 FR 67882 (Nov. 12, 2013) (to be codified at 49 CFR Part 27). ICT subject to the 255 Guidelines would be expressly exempted from the requirements of this section (by proposed C204.1 Exception) because telecommunications equipment does not typically issue keys, tickets, or fare cards.

407.12 Reach Height

This section proposes requirements for the height of side and forward reaches that would enable persons using wheelchairs or other mobility aids to reach and operate at least one of each type of operable part. This proposed section would apply only to ICT that is stationary. By “stationary,” the Board means that the ICT, once put in place, is not intended to be relocated for routine use. Proposed 407.12 parallels existing 508 Standards § 1194.25(j), which applies side reach requirements to ICT that is “freestanding, non-portable, and intended to be used in one location.” We are proposing to use the term “stationary” to address concerns that the word “freestanding” implies an independent supporting structure that may not always be in place, such as with a multifunction printer specifically designed for table-top or desk-top use.

Specifically, this section would establish requirements for position (i.e., vertical reference plane), forward reach, and side reach. This section proposes maximum and minimum reach heights for either forward (over the lap) or side reaches to stationary ICT. Existing 508 Standards § 1194.25(j) only provides specifications for side reaches to operable parts of ICT. This section would provide greater design flexibility by permitting controls to be configured for either forward reach (407.12.3) or side reach (407.12.2). This flexibility would allow manufacturers to assess conformance prior to sale and independent of factors outside their control. For example, a manufacturer cannot control the installation location once ICT is purchased. However, because controls are designed to be within reach, the purchaser can then ensure that the ICT is located so that at least one of each type of control is accessible to individuals with disabilities. ICT subject to the 255 Guidelines would be expressly exempted from the requirements of this section (by proposed C204.1 Exception) because it is not typically stationary.

Question 21. Should the requirements for reach height in proposed 407.12 apply to ICT subject to the 255 Guidelines, such as, for example, routers attached to racks? The Board asks that telecommunications equipment manufacturers provide information on the costs of such a requirement. Are there alternative ways of making these components accessible? We welcome comments on suggested approaches.

407.12.1 Vertical Reference Plane

This section proposes that the positioning of operable parts for side reaches and forward reaches be determined with respect to a vertical reference plane, with the location and length of the plane dependent on the type of reach.. The provisions for a side reach in existing 508 Standards § 1194.25(j)(1) contain references to this same vertical reference plane.

407.12.1.1 Vertical Plane for Side Reach

This section proposes that, where a side approach is provided, the vertical reference plane must have a minimum length of 48 inches. The 48-inch dimension is based on the length of a stationary occupied wheelchair. This side reach requirement mirrors existing 508 Standards § 1194.25(j)(1) and Figure 1.

407.12.1.2 Vertical Plane for Forward Reach

This section proposes that, where a forward reach is provided, the vertical reference plane must be, at a minimum, 30 inches long. The 30-inch dimension is based on the width of a stationary occupied wheelchair. This dimension is consistent with the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines (36 CFR Part 1191, Appendix D, section 305.5).

407.12.2 Side Reach

This section specifies proposed requirements for operable parts providing unobstructed or obstructed side reaches. It proposes to limit the height of the portion of the ICT over which a person must reach to access controls to 34 inches maximum in height. Although the existing 508 Standards do not include a maximum height for the portion of the ICT over which a person must reach, the proposed 34 inches maximum height is consistent with ICC A117.1-2009, as well as the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines (36 CFR Part 1191, Appendix D, section 308). Without such a height limitation, controls at 48 inches could be out of reach if an obstruction blocked a user’s arm and impeded his or her reach to the controls.

407.12.2.1 Unobstructed Side Reach

This section proposes that, where the operable part is located 10 inches or less behind the vertical reference plane, the operable part must be 48 inches high maximum and 15 inches high minimum above the floor. Although existing 508 Standards § 1194.25 (j)(2) permits a maximum reach height of 54 inches, it contains the same minimum height (15 inches) and 10-inch reach depth. The proposed lowering of the maximum height for unobstructed side reach (i.e., from 54 inches in the existing 508 Standards to 48 inches in this proposed rule) reflects a similar change in 2004 to the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines. See 36 CFR Part 1191, Appendix D, section 308.3. This proposed maximum height is also consistent with accessible reaches specified in the 1998 edition, as well as two subsequent editions, of the ICC A117.1.

407.12.2.2 Obstructed Side Reach

This section proposes that, where the operable part is located more than 10 inches, but not more than 24 inches, behind the vertical reference plane, the height of the operable part must be 46 inches maximum and 15 inches minimum above the floor. In addition, the operable part would not be permitted to be located more than 24 inches behind the vertical reference plane. Although it is editorially revised, this section is the same as existing 508 Standards §§ 1194.25(j)(3) and 1194.25(j)(4).

407.12.3 Forward Reach

This section contains proposed requirements for operable parts providing either an unobstructed or obstructed forward reach. This section proposes to limit the height of an obstruction that must be reached over to operate the control to 34 inches in height. The 34-inch height restriction is consistent with the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines. See 36 CFR Part 1191, Appendix D, section 308. The proposed provision would also require the vertical reference plane to be centered on, and intersect with, the operable part.

As noted previously, the existing 508 Standards do not provide specifications for forward reaches. While this requirement (and its subsections) would thus be new to the existing 508 Standards, it nonetheless would provide greater design flexibility by permitting controls to be configured for forward reach (or, alternatively, side reach), at the manufacturer’s discretion.

407.12.3.1 Unobstructed Forward Reach

This section proposes that, where an unobstructed forward reach is provided, the operable part must be located 48 inches high maximum and 15 inches high minimum above the floor. An unobstructed forward reach, for purposes of this section, occurs when the operable part is located at the leading edge of the maximum protrusion within the length of the vertical reference plane of the ICT. These dimensions and their resulting geometry are consistent with the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines (36 CFR Part 1191, Appendix D, sections 306 and 308).

407.12.3.2 Obstructed Forward Reach

This section proposes that, where an obstructed forward reach is provided, the maximum allowable forward reach to an operable part would be 25 inches. An obstructed forward reach, for purposes of this section, occurs when the operable part is located behind the leading edge of the maximum protrusion within the length of the vertical reference plane of the ICT. In addition, this proposed section also contains subsections, as discussed below, establishing maximum heights for operable parts with obstructed forward reaches, as well as dimensions for knee and toe spaces. These dimensions and their resulting geometry are consistent with the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines (36 CFR Part 1191, Appendix D, sections 306 and 308).

407.12.3.2.1 Height

This section, presented in tabular form (Table 407.12.3.2.1), proposes alternative maximum heights for operable parts with obstructed forward reaches depending on reach depth. As specified in this table, if the reach depth of the operable part is less than 20 inches, then the operable part must be no higher than 48 inches. If the reach depth of the operable part is 20 inches to 25 inches, then the operable part must be no higher than 44 inches. These dimensions and their resulting geometry are consistent with the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines (36 CFR Part 1191, Appendix D, sections 306 and 308).

407.12.3.2.2 Knee and Toe Space

This section proposes dimensions for knee and toe space under ICT when an obstructed forward reach is provided. The dimensions necessary to accommodate the full knee and toe space under ICT would be 27 inches high minimum, 25 inches deep maximum, and 30 inches wide minimum. This knee and toe space would also have to be clear of obstructions. These dimensions and their resulting geometry are consistent with the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines (36 CFR Part 1191, Appendix D, sections 306 and 308).

There are two proposed exceptions to this knee and toe space requirement. First, toe space with a reduced clear height of 9 inches (rather than 27 inches) would be permitted for a depth of no more than 6 inches. Building on this exception, the second exception would allow further reduction in the height of the space along the profile of the knee to the toe sloping at 6:1 toward the maximum protrusion of the ICT. This means that, for every 6 inches of height, the line can move toward the maximum protrusion of the ICT up to 1 inch or, put another way, 6 inches of rise to 1 inch of run. These two exceptions allow ICT to provide space beneath operable controls for ICT for knees and toes, or a portion of knees and toes, depending on the location of the controls.

408 Display Screens

This is an introductory section.

408.1 General

This section proposes to require that, where stationary ICT provides one or more display screens, at least one of each type of screen must be visible from a point located 40 inches above the floor space where the display screen is to be viewed. The word “stationary” in this proposed section would have the same meaning as in proposed 407.12. The intent of this provision is to ensure that display screens are viewable by individuals who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids. This would be a new requirement for the 508 Standards. ICT subject to the 255 Guidelines would be expressly exempted from the requirements of this section (by proposed C204.1 Exception) because such equipment is not typically stationary.

Question 22. The visibility requirements for display screens in section 408.1 apply only to stationary ICT (i.e., ICT that is not intended to be moved once put in place), and, consequently, would not generally apply to telecommunications equipment subject to the 255 Guidelines—such as cable modems and routers. Should the requirements for display screens apply to ICT subject to the 255 Guidelines?

In addition to the proposed requirements above, the Board is considering establishing a requirement for the angle of the display screen to be adjustable, so that a person using a wheelchair or other mobility aid could see the entire viewable area of the display screen and minimize the effect of glare.

Question 23. Should the Board add a requirement that the viewing angle of display screens be adjustable to permit wheelchair users or persons of small stature to see the entire viewable area of such screens and minimize glare? Are there other characteristics of display screens that would make them more viewable to persons who use wheelchairs or other mobility aids?

409 Transactional Outputs

This is an introductory section.

409.1 General

This section proposes that, where transactional outputs—such as tickets and receipts—are provided by ICT with speech output, the speech output must contain all information necessary to complete or verify a transaction. As applied to ICT with closed functionality and display screens required to be speech-output enabled under proposed 402.2, this section would require all information necessary to complete or verify a transaction, including information printed on receipts or tickets, to be provided audibly.

This proposed requirement in 409.1 would be new to the 508 Standards. ICT subject to the 255 Guidelines would be expressly exempted from the requirements of this section (by proposed C204.1 Exception) because telecommunications equipment generally does not provide transactional outputs. For ICT covered by the 508 Standards, there would be exceptions for three specific types of transactional outputs: information unrelated to the substance of particular transactions (e.g., machine location and identifier, time of transaction); information already presented audibly during the same transaction; and, lastly, itineraries, maps, and other visual images. Each of these exceptions is discussed below.

Question 24. Do the three proposed exceptions to 409.1 adequately cover the types of information that should be exempted from the requirement for audible presentation of transactional outputs? Are there other types of information typically provided on transaction outputs that should be exempted? Should the Board limit the types of transactional outputs required to be presented audibly to certain types of outputs, e.g., tickets or sales receipts?

Exception 1 to 409.1

Proposed Exception 1 would exempt information regarding the machine location, date and time of transaction, customer account number, and the machine identifier from the proposed requirement for audible transaction output. Although this information may be on printed receipts and other transactional outputs, it is not typically consulted by the user during, or immediately following, a transaction. This proposed exception is based on an exception to the requirements for speech output at Automated Teller Machines and Fare Vending Machines in the ADA and ABA Accessibility Guidelines. See 36 CFR Part 1191, Appendix D, section 707.5.2 Exception 1.

Exception 2 to 409.1

Proposed Exception 2 would exempt all information that is part of a transactional output from the proposed requirement if it has already been presented audibly at another point during the same transaction. For example, if a user purchasing stamps on a self-service U.S. Post Office machine selected a particular commemorative stamp and the selected stamp name was presented in an audible format previously in that same transaction, it need not be repeated when the machine issues the stamp.

Exception 3 to 409.1

Proposed Exception 3 would exempt itineraries, maps, or other visual images that are provided on ticketing machines from being required to be presented in an audible format. This exception is proposed in recognition of the technical challenges posed by audible presentation of visual images.

Question 25. Are there requirements in proposed Exception 3 to 409.1 sufficiently clear?

410 ICT with Two-Way Voice Communication

This is an introductory section.

410.1 General

This section addresses the accessibility of telecommunications equipment that offers two-way voice communication (i.e., an interactive, multi-party voice communication occurring in real time), including both older technologies (such as landline telephones and two-way pagers) and more modern ICT (such as mobile wireless devices). It would also apply to two-way video communication when the video also transmits voice communication. Proposed 410.1 would require ICT with two-way voice communication functionality to conform to the technical requirements in proposed 410.2 through 410.8, which cover, among other things: volume gain magnetic coupling, minimization of interference, real-time text functionality, and video communication.

410.2 Volume Gain

This section proposes to require ICT with two-way communication to provide volume gain conforming to the FCC’s current regulation at 47 CFR 68.317, which establishes technical standards for volume control on analog and digital telephones to facilitate hearing aid compatibility. The proposed section would replace existing 508 Standards § 1194.23(f) and existing 255 Guidelines § 1193.43(e). The Advisory Committee recommended that the Board adopt the FCC’s volume gain requirements for landline ICT with two-way voice communication.

In July 2013, the FCC issued a request for comment on a petition for rulemaking filed by a telecommunications industry group requesting that the agency revise its hearing aid compatibility volume control gain requirements for analog and digital telephones.10 The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) petition urged the Commission to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking to, among other things, update its Part 68 rule to incorporate the most recent TIA standard for hearing aid compatibility volume control on telephones: ANSI/TIA-4965, Receive Volume Control Requirements for Digital and Analog Wireline Handset Terminals (2012). 28 FCC Rcd. at 10338-39. At present, the Commission’s regulation at § 68.317 sets forth separate requirements for analog and digital telephones based on speech amplification metrics known as “Receive Objective Loudness Rating” (ROLR). ANSI/TIA-4965, on the other hand, uses a new amplification metric—referred to as “conversational gain”—to establish requirements for both analog and digital telephones.

While the “conversational gain” method of measuring amplification for wireline phones in ANSI/TIA-4965 may hold promise, it would be premature for the Board to reference this standard unless and until it is adopted by the FCC. As the lead regulatory agency on hearing aid compatibility standards for wireline telephones, the FCC is in the best position to assess the technical merits, as well as costs and benefits, of referencing this new TIA standard in any subsequent revisions to its existing regulation in Part 68.

Question 26. The Board proposes to adopt 47 CFR 68.317, which is the FCC’s current regulatory standard addressing volume control for analog and digital telephones. In the future, should the FCC revise its regulation and incorporate by reference ANSI/TIA-4965 (or any other consensus standard) for wireline phones, the Board plans to update its regulations—as needed— to reflect revisions by the Commission. We seek comment on this proposed course of action.

410.3 Magnetic Coupling

This section proposes to require that, where ICT with two-way voice communication delivers output by an audio transducer that is typically held up to the ear, it provide a means for effective magnetic wireless coupling to hearing technologies, such as hearing aids, cochlear implants, and assistive listening devices. This section is equivalent to §§ 1194.23(h) and 1193.43(i) of the existing 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines, respectively.

410.4 Minimize Interference

This proposed section would require wireless handsets and digital wireless devices to reduce interference with hearing technologies to the lowest possible level, with interference specifications set forth in proposed subsections 410.4.1 (wireless handsets) and 410.4.2 (digital wireline). This section closely corresponds to existing 508 Standards § 1194.23(i) and 255 Guidelines § 1193.43(h), but also incorporates by references consensus standards developed since the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines were published.

The proposed subsections 410.4.1 and 410.4.2 refer to industry-accepted standards for performance requirements for mobile and landline telephones.

410.4.1 Wireless Handsets

This section proposes that ICT in the form of wireless handsets—that is, cellular telephones—would be required to conform to ANSI/IEEE C63.19-2011, as incorporated by reference in 508 Chapter 1 and 255 Chapter 1.

410.4.2 Digital Wireline

This section proposes that ICT in the form of digital wireline devices (such as VoIP-based office desk telephones) would be required to conform to TIA 1083, as incorporated by reference in 508 Chapter 1 and 255 Chapter 1.

410.5 Digital Encoding of Speech

This section proposes to require ICT with two-way voice communication to transmit and receive digitally encoded speech in the manner specified by ITU-T Recommendation G.722, a consensus standard for encoding and storing digital audio information that is incorporated by reference in 508 Chapter 1 and 255 Chapter 1. An exception for closed systems would exempt such systems from conformance to ITU-T Recommendation G.722 provided that they conform to another standard that ensures equivalent or better acoustic performance and support conversion to ITU-T Recommendation G.722 at their borders. This provision was recommended by the Advisory Committee to help improve auditory clarity for persons with hearing impairments. It is new to both the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines.

410.6 Real-Time Text Functionality

This proposed section establishes requirements for RTT functionality for ICT that provides real-time voice communication. As noted previously, both the Advisory Committee and the Board believe that RTT represents an important technological advance that provides an equivalent alternative to voice communications for persons who are deaf, as well as those with limited hearing or speech impairments. RTT delivers a more interactive, conversational communication experience compared to standard text messaging. It also provides superior speed and reliability in emergency situations. Furthermore, RTT permits the user to communicate using mainstream devices—such as mobile phones—rather than having to use specialized and expensive devices (such as TTYs). See discussion above in Section IV.E.4 (Rulemaking History – 2010 and 2011 ANPRMs: Significant Issues – Coverage of Real-Time Text), and Section V.D (Major Issues – Real-Time Text).

Proposed 410.6 would require that, where ICT supports real-time voice communication, it must also support RTT functionality. Subsections of this proposed provision would, in turn, establish technical requirements for display, text generation, and interoperability. Importantly, proposed 410.6 would not mandate that all ICT provide RTT functionality. Rather, only those ICT that already have real-time voice communication capabilities would be required to support RTT functions. In this way, the Board’s approach to requirements for RTT in the proposed rule mirrors the approach taken in the existing 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines toward TTY compatibility. Neither the existing standards and guidelines nor the proposed rule establish an across-the-board command that telecommunications equipment or devices “build in” text capability. Instead, both sets of rules simply require that, when such equipment or devices offer voice communication functions, they must also ensure compatibility with certain types of text communication (i.e., TTY and RTT) by supporting use of specified cross-manufacturer, non-proprietary signals. See 36 CFR 1193.51((e), 1194.23(b).

410.6.1 Display of Real-Time Text

This proposed section is new to the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines and would require that, wherever ICT provides real-time voice communication and includes a multi-line screen, the ICT must also support the display of real-time text. This provision would not apply to telecommunications devices that either do not have display screens, or only have display screens capable of showing one line of text at a time.

410.6.2 Text Generation

This proposed section is new to the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines and would require that, wherever ICT provides real-time voice communication and includes a keyboard, the ICT must also support the generation of real-time text.

410.6.3 Interoperability

This section proposes that, where ICT with real-time two-way voice communication operates outside of a closed network or connects to another system, such ICT must ensure real-time text interoperability by using one of two cross-manufacturer, non-proprietary consensus standards depending on the nature of the system with which it is exchanging information—namely, a traditional telephone network or Internet-based telephony.

410.6.3.1 PSTN

This section proposes that, where ICT with real-time two-way voice communication interoperates with the publicly switched telephone network (PSTN), real-time text conform to TIA 825-A (incorporated by reference in 508 Chapter 1 and 255 Chapter 1). This is the current industry standard for TTY signals (also known as Baudot) at the PSTN interface.

410.6.3.2 VoIP Using SIP

This section proposes that, where ICT with real-time two-way voice communication interoperates with “Voice over Internet Protocol” (VoIP) products or systems that use Session Initiated Protocol (SIP), real-time text conform to RFC 4103 (incorporated by reference in 508 Chapter 1 and 255 Chapter 1). In Question 8 above, see Section V.D., the Board seeks comment regarding the potential benefits, costs, and drawbacks associated with referencing other standards in addition to RFC 4103.

410.6.4 Voice Mail, Auto-Attendant, and IVR Compatibility

This section proposes that, where ICT provides real-time two-way voice communication, any associated voice mail, auto-attendant, and interactive voice response systems must be compatible with real-time text functionality. This section derives from existing 508 Standards §§ 1194.23(c)-(e), as well as existing 255 Guidelines §§ 1193.51(d)-(e).

410.6.5 HCO and VCO Support

This section proposes that, where ICT provides real-time two-way voice communication, it must permit users to intermix speech with the use of real-time text. Such ICT would also be required to support modes that are compatible with Hearing Carry Over (HCO) and Voice Carry Over (VCO). This provision is collectively derived from existing 508 Standards § 1194.23(a) and 255 Guidelines § 1193.51(d), and is consistent with changes in technology over time from TTYs to real-time text functionality. It is particularly significant in preserving the use of HCO/VCO with evolving technology.

410.7 Caller ID

This section proposes that, where ICT provides two-way voice communication, any associated caller identification or similar telecommunications functions must be presented in both visual (e.g., text) and auditory formats. This requirement would be new to the 255 Guidelines, but corresponds to a similar requirement in § 1194.23(e) of the existing 508 Standards. This proposed requirement could be met, for example, by having the system provide Caller ID in an auditory format, or by ensuring that Caller ID is available to assistive technology. Presentation of Caller ID in both visible and auditory forms ensures that individuals with visual impairments, hearing loss, or both, could use Caller ID and similar services, when provided.

410.8 Video Communication

This section proposes that ICT with real-time video functionality must ensure that the quality of the video is sufficient to support communication through sign language. This proposed section would be new to both the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines. The Advisory Committee recommended that the Board include a provision requiring ICT used to transmit video communications in real-time to meet certain specifications for video quality and fluidity (i.e., speed, data stream, and latency). See TEITAC Report, Part 6. Subpt. C, Rec. 6-E.

The Board’s proposals relating to the requisite quality of real-time video communications have received mixed reviews from commenters. In the 2010 ANPRM, the Board proposed specifications for the quality of real-time video communication that largely mirrored the Advisory Committee’s recommendation. Many commenters expressed support for the general concept of a video quality requirement as important for ensuring the accessibility of a means of communication, which, for persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, is the functional equivalent of voice communication. Some commenters, on the other hand, were critical of the Board’s proposed technical specifications as overly prescriptive or unsupported by research. In light of such concerns, in the 2011 ANPRM, the Board simply proposed—as here in this proposed rule—that the quality of video must be sufficient to support sign language communication. Commenters to the 2011 ANPRM, while again generally supportive of the effort to ensure real-time video communications were usable by persons with hearing impairments, largely took issue with the proposal’s lack of testable measures.

While the Board is mindful of commenters’ criticisms to the 2011 ANPRM’s performance-based standard for video quality of real-time video functionality, the Board has nonetheless retained this standard in this proposed rule. This provision would cover video communication via the web on dedicated videophones, as well as commonly used ICT such as smartphones. We are not aware of standards or specifications for video quality that would provide testable and achievable metrics to assess the quality and transmission of real-time video communications. However, technologies—as well as standards development—have progressed greatly in recent years. We welcome public comment on technological improvements or useful metrics relating to real-time video communication developed since the 2011 ANPRM.

Question 27. Does the performance-based standard in proposed 410.8 ensure that video quality would be sufficient to support a real-time video conversation in which one or more parties use sign language? If not, are there standards for video quality or transmission that would better implement the accessibility goal of this proposed requirement? Would it be readily achievable for manufacturers of telecommunications equipment to comply with section 410.8?

411 Closed Caption Processing Technologies

This is an introductory section.

411.1 General

This section addresses the accessibility of audio-visual technologies—including analog and digital televisions, tuners, personal video display devices, converter boxes, and computer equipment—by requiring such technologies to support closed and open captions. Captioning is critical for persons with hearing impairments to use and understand information presented in a video format. Specifically, proposed 411.1 provides that, where audio-visual players and displays process video with synchronized audio, they must either decode closed caption data and display open captions, or pass-through the closed captioning data stream in an accessible format. This proposal largely corresponds to existing 508 Standards §§ 1194.23(j) and 1194.24(a), and existing 255 Guidelines § 1193.37, though it differs in a few notable respects. Due to advances in technology, this proposed section neither distinguishes between analog and digital televisions, nor conditions the requirement for closed caption decoder circuitry on screen size. Additionally, the proposal substitutes the term “synchronized audio information” for “multimedia” because it is more precise and consistent with current terminology.

Question 28. Would compliance with section 411 be readily achievable for manufacturers of mobile telecommunications equipment?

411.1.1 Decoding of Closed Captions

This section proposes that, where audio-visual players and displays process video with synchronized audio, they must decode closed caption data and support display of open captions.

411.1.2 Pass-Through of Closed Caption Data

This section proposes that, where audio-visual players and displays process video with synchronized audio, cabling and ancillary equipment would be required to pass through caption data. High-definition multimedia cables (HDMI) carry audio and video signals, and are technically capable of passing through caption data; typically, however, caption data is not included with the audio-visual stream.

412 Audio Description Processing Technology

This is an introductory section.

412.1 General

This proposed section would require that, where ICT displays or processes video with synchronized audio, ICT must provide a mode of operation that plays associated audio description. This requirement draws from the audio description requirement in existing 508 Standards § 1194.24(b), but would include a specification for digital television tuners. This would be a new requirement to the 255 Guidelines.

Question 29. Would compliance with section 412 be readily achievable for manufacturers of mobile telecommunications equipment?

412.1.1 Digital Television Tuners

This section proposes that, where audio description is played through a digital television tuner, that such tuner conform to Part 5 of the ATSC A/53 Digital Television Standard (incorporated by reference in 508 Chapter 1 and 255 Chapter 1). The provision then goes on to require that tuners provide processing for audio description when encoded as a Visually Impaired (VI) associated audio service. This is the industry-wide accepted method for delivery of audio description content and the means to identify audio as a VI associated audio service.

413 User Controls for Captions and Audio Description

This is an introductory section.

413.1 General

This proposed section addresses the accessibility of controls for captioning and audio description on devices used to watch video programming, including analog and digital televisions, tuners, personal video display devices, converter boxes, and computer equipment. Specifically, this provision would require hardware displaying video with synchronized audio to locate user controls for closed captions and audio description in specified locations of equal prominence to common user controls (i.e., volume and program selection), as set forth in two accompanying subsections (proposed 413.1.1 and 413.1.2). An exception would be provided for devices for personal use when closed captions and audio description can be enabled through system-wide platform settings. This exception is proposed in recognition of the fact that the small size of most mobile devices would make compliance particularly challenging.

The requirements in proposed 413.1 would be new to the 508 Standards and the 255 Guidelines. The Advisory Committee recommended inclusion of this provision to ensure that persons with hearing- and vision-related disabilities can find—and use—captioning and audio description controls. See TEITAC Report, Part 6, Subpt. C, Rec. 4-C. (Complimentary provisions governing software-based on-screen controls for captions and audio description are addressed in proposed 503.4.)

This proposed requirement, albeit with slightly different wording, was included in the 2010 and 2011 ANPRMs. Comments from organizations representing persons with disabilities lauded this proposed requirement as a significant step toward improving the accessibility of captioning and audio description controls. These organizations characterized consumers with disabilities as having long struggled with varying methods among manufacturers for accessing such controls, describing them as typically more complex and less “user friendly” compared to the control of other core functions. They also noted that difficulties locating and using caption and audio description controls is of particular concern for persons with disabilities when in unfamiliar locations (e.g., television in hotel room), or an emergency situation when accessing captioned or audio described information could be life-saving.

Commenters with connections to the ICT industry, on the other hand, expressed concern with the broad scope of the proposed provision. These commenters noted that the proposed requirement governing location of controls for captions and audio description would apply not only to televisions and remote controls, but also a wide range of “general purpose” devices—such as desktop computers, laptops, and other mobile devices—for which multimedia output is an incidental function. They suggested that either the scoping of the requirement be modified, or “general purpose” devices be exempted from providing physical buttons for closed captions and audio description. Others simply noted more generally that providing caption controls with equal prominence to volume controls could be problematic for some types of hardware-based ICT.

In late 2013, the FCC issued a final rule addressing, among other things, the accessibility of user interfaces on digital devices and software used to view video programming, including closed captioning and audio description (which, in the Commission’s rule, is referred to as “video description”).11 To implement the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA), Public Law No. 111-260 (2010) (codified in scattered sections of 47 U.S.C.), the FCC, in pertinent part, promulgated rules requiring “digital apparatus” designed to receive or play back video programming to provide access to closed captioning and video description through a mechanism that is reasonably comparable to a button, key or icon.12 “Navigation devices”—which include digital cable ready televisions, set-top boxes, computers with CableCARD slots, and cable modems—are required to provide similar access to closed captioning (but not, at this juncture, video description) for on-screen menus and guides. The Commission declined, however, to adopt technical standards, performance objectives, or other specific metrics to evaluate accessibility. Establishment of such standards, the Commission determined, was beyond its statutory authority, and would, in any event, potentially stifle innovative approaches.

Proposed 413.1, in the Board’s view, complements the approach taken by the FCC in its final rule on accessibility of user interfaces. As with the FCC’s rule, the Board proposes to require that ICT with the capability of displaying video with synchronized audio ensure that controls for closed captions and audio description are accessible to persons with disabilities. Unlike the FCC, however, the Board does propose technical standards—namely, placement of caption and audio description controls—that govern how accessibility must be achieved. This is consistent with the Board’s statutory mandate under both the Rehabilitation Act and Communications Act. See 29 U.S.C. §§ 794d(2)(A)(ii), 794d(B); 47 U.S.C. 255(e). Thus, while the FCC may have been statutorily constrained by the CVAA with respect to technical standards for user interfaces, the Board is not. Indeed, one of Board’s core missions is the establishment of technical standards. In this way, proposed 413.1 may be seen as complimenting the FCC’s recent final rule. Both agencies establish an accessibility mandate for user interfaces on certain ICT that displays video with synchronized audio, but the Board, in this proposed rule, goes one step further by establishing a metric to assess accessibility—namely, placement of user controls for closed captions and audio description in locations of equal prominence to other core functions (i.e., volume control and program selection).

Question 30. Does proposed 413.1 strike an appropriate balance between ensuring users with hearing or vision impairments can readily find and use controls for closed captioning and audio description, while also affording device manufacturers sufficient design flexibility? Should the requirement for a captioning button be limited to devices that have both up/down volume controls and a mute button? Or, more generally, should the provision of caption controls be limited to certain types of hardware?

413.1.1 Caption Controls

This proposed section would require that, where video-capable hardware provides physical volume adjustment controls, such ICT must also have a control for closed captioning in at least one location of comparable prominence to the volume adjustment controls. So, for example, if a television had physical volume controls on the display panel, as well as its accompanying remote control, this proposed requirement would be satisfied so long as a user control for captions was located either, at the manufacturer’s discretion, on the display or remote control in an equally prominent location to the volume control. (If this television also had a feature to adjust volume by way of an on-screen tool or menu, caption control requirements for this on-screen control would be governed by the software-based requirements in proposed 503.4.)

Question 31. While the Board believes that proposed 413.1.1 would greatly benefit persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, we did not monetize the benefits or costs of providing caption controls on covered hardware. The Board seeks data and other information from the public in order to estimate the monetized costs and benefits of this proposal. For commenters who do not view this proposed requirement as beneficial, how should the accessibility barriers faced by individuals with hearing impairments who seek to locate and operate closed caption features be addressed? Commenters should provide concrete suggestions for improving proposed 413.1.1.

413.1.2 Audio Description Controls

This proposed section would require that, where video-capable hardware provides controls for program selection, such ICT must have user controls for audio description in at least one location of comparable prominence to the program selection controls. This requirement would be new to the 508 Standards. Locating audio description controls in a prominent location is not currently a common design practice, though the Board does not anticipate that it will add substantial cost. In practice, this would require one extra button on a remote control. While not as common as products featuring controls for captioning, there are already products commercially available that feature user controls for audio description.

Question 32. While the Board believes that proposed 413.1.2 would greatly benefit consumers who are blind or have low vision, we did not monetize the benefits or costs of providing audio description controls on covered hardware. The Board seeks data and other information in order to estimate the monetized costs and benefits of this proposal. For commenters who do not view this proposed requirement as beneficial, how should the accessibility barriers faced by individuals with vision impairments who seek to locate and operate audio description features be addressed? Commenters should provide concrete suggestions for improving proposed 413.1.2.

Chapter 5: Software

Chapter 5 contains proposed technical requirements for software, applications, platforms, and software tools. The requirements in this chapter, along with the scoping provisions in proposed E207 and C205, collectively form the “suite” of accessibility requirements for these types of ICT. This chapter is largely drawn from existing 508 Standards § 1194.21, but with updating to harmonize with WCAG 2.0.

501 General

This is an introductory section.

501.1 Scope

This section proposes that the technical requirements for software in this chapter be applied where either (a) required by 508 Chapter 2 or 255 Chapter 2, or (b) where otherwise referenced in any other chapters. There are two exceptions. Exception 1, as proposed, provides that Web applications conforming to all Level A and AA Success Criteria and all Conformance Requirements in WCAG 2.0 need not conform to proposed 502 (Interoperability with Assistive Technology) or 503 (Applications). This exception is provided because software that conforms to WCAG 2.0 AA is already accessible. The value of promoting a single harmonized standard outweighs any small benefit that might be achieved by conforming to overlapping, but separate, standards.

Exception 2 proposes that software that (1) is assistive technology and (2) supports the accessibility services of the platform for which it is designed need not conform with the provisions of this chapter. This exception is included because assistive technology frequently needs flexibility in order to perform well for end-users with disabilities. For example, a switch-activated on-screen keyboard might not have a mode that makes it usable by someone who is blind. This exception is also deliberately limited to software that follows platform specifications because it is important that assistive technology be compatible with other assistive technology.

502 Interoperability with Assistive Technology

This is an introductory section.

502.1 General

This section proposes that platforms, software tools provided by platform developers, and applications must conform to the requirements in the accompanying subsections related to documented accessibility features (502.2), accessibility services (502.3), and platform accessibility services (502.4). An exception is provided for platforms and applications that have closed functionality.

This section has implications for both platform developers and federal procurement officials. Agencies would have to ensure that all operating systems they purchase have an associated set of documented accessibility services. Software developers would have to provide accessibility services when creating platforms and their software tools.

502.2 Documented Accessibility Features

This section addresses the compatibility of software and assistive technology. Specifically, under proposed 502.2, platform features that are defined in the platform documentation as accessibility features would be required to conform to requirements in accompanying subsections related to user control (502.2.1) and non-disruption (502.2.2) of accessibility features.

502.2.1 User Control of Accessibility Features

This section proposes that platforms must provide user control over platform features when such features are defined in platform documentation as serving an accessibility purpose. This provision would be new to the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines, though it draws on the prohibition in § 1194.21(b) of the existing 508 Standards against disrupting or disabling accessibility features. The Advisory Committee recommended that the Board include an express provision ensuring that persons with disabilities are able to activate and use features or settings—such as font size, or color—that preclude network or system-wide configurations from “locking down” needed accessibility features. See TEITAC Report, Part 6, Subpt. C, Rec. 2-C. This proposal was included in the 2010 and 2011 ANPRMs, and the only comments received related to minor editorial changes.

502.2.2 No Disruption of Accessibility Features

This section proposes that, where accessibility features are defined in platform documentation, applications must not disrupt them. This provision mirrors existing 508 Standards § 1194.21(b). The Advisory Committee strongly recommended that the Board include this requirement in the proposed rule not only to ensure accessibility, but also to avoid platform developers from being responsible for incompatibilities that derived from undocumented platform services or hidden requirements of assistive technology. See TEITAC Report, Part 6, Subpt. C, Rec. 3-Q. This proposal was included in the 2010 and 2011 ANPRMs and received no adverse comments.

502.3 Accessibility Services

This section proposes that platforms (such as operating systems) and software tools provided by the platform developer furnish a documented set of accessibility services—usually referred to as Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)—in order to enable applications running on the platform to interoperate with assistive technology. Additionally, applications that are themselves platforms would be required to expose underlying platform accessibility services or implement other document accessibility services.

This proposal does not have an analog in the existing 508 Standards because, at the time the standards were issued in 2000, mainstream operating systems had a well-established track record of providing APIs. Since then, some platforms, particularly those used by first generation mobile devices, stopped providing these requisite components of baseline accessibility. This proposed provision would not represent a significant change from widespread industry practice, since all major platforms have well-developed APIs that incorporate accessibility. Consequently, it is important to expressly require APIs. A documented set of accessibility services is important to end-users because, without them, developers are likely to provide inconsistent access to assistive technology, thereby leaving end-users with disabilities without access to needed features. Well-documented accessibility services are especially important for developers new to accessibility, and can serve to alert all developers to the importance of the accessibility features of platforms.

502.3.1 Object Information

This section proposes that particular programming elements—namely object role, state, boundary, name, and description—must be programmatically determinable. Moreover, user-adjustable states would be required to be set programmatically, including through assistive technology. This proposal, along with proposed 502.3.3, corresponds to WCAG 2.0 Success Criteria 4.1.2 Name, Role, and Value. It is also consistent with existing 508 Standards § 1194.21(d), but more explicitly provides for the user to be able to change data values, not just read them. Making the specified states programmatically determinable is already a widespread industry practice and is a standard feature provided in software designed to be accessible. Nonetheless, it is important to address this issue in the proposed rule because, on occasion, users of assistive technology find that they can read data in fields, but cannot make changes.

502.3.2 Row, Column, and Headers

This section proposes that, where a programming object is in a table, occupied rows and columns (i.e., those populated with data), as well as any headers associated with such rows or columns, must be programmatically determinable. This provision corresponds to §§ 1194.22(g) and 1194.22(h) of the existing 508 Standards. A similar requirement is set forth in WCAG 2.0 Success Criteria 1.3.1 Info and Relationships. See W3C, Understanding SC 1.3.1, Understanding WCAG 2.0 (Sept. 16, 2014), http://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/content-structure-separation-programmatic.html.

502.3.3 Values

This section proposes that current values, as well as any set or range of allowable values associated with a programming object, must be programmatically determinable. This proposal would also require values that can be set by the user to be capable of being set programmatically, including through assistive technology. This proposal, along with proposed 502.3.1, corresponds to WCAG 2.0 Success Criteria 4.1.2 Name, Role, and Value. An express requirement for values to be set programmatically would be new to the 508 Standards. However, existing industry practice in response to existing standards (i.e., 508 Standards § 1194.21(d)) is to permit values to be set programmatically.

502.3.4 Label Relationships

This section proposes that relationships between components must be programmatically exposed to assistive technology where a component labels, or is labeled by, another component. This provision corresponds to §§ 1194.21(l) and 1194.22(n) in the existing 508 Standards, though it is broader in scope since, unlike these current requirements, its coverage extends beyond forms. A similar requirement is set forth in WCAG 2.0 Success Criteria 1.3.1 Info and Relationships. See W3C, Understanding SC 1.3.1, Understanding WCAG 2.0 (Sept. 16, 2014), http://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/content-structure-separation-programmatic.html.

502.3.5 Hierarchical Relationships

This section proposes that any hierarchical (parent-child) relationship between components be programmatically exposed to assistive technology. This is important for individuals who use assistive technology so they can understand the relationships or interdependencies between menu options, database entries, or other software elements that have parent-child relationships. For example, word processing and email software commonly use one or more sub-menus that cascade from a “main” menu item, which permit the user to perform desired actions such as saving a file in a specific format or altering font styles. Requiring components to expose (i.e., provide) hierarchical relationships to assistive technology ensures that an individual using a screen reader, for example, could understand these relationships and, thereby, perform the desired function or action. This provision corresponds to existing 508 Standards §§ 1194.21(l) and 1194.22(n). In addition, in response to existing 508 Standards § 1194.21(d), current industry practice is to ensure that any parent-child relationship that components have to other components is programmatically exposed to assistive technology. This requirement closely parallels Success Criterion 1.3.1 in WCAG 2.0, but has greater specificity because software is more structured than Web content.

502.3.6 Text

This section proposes that the content of text objects, text attributes, and on-screen text boundaries be programmatically determinable. Additionally, text that can be set by the user would have to be capable of being set programmatically, including through assistive technology. This provision would be useful for a screen-reader user, for example, when filling in a field on a form. It would be quite frustrating to be able to navigate to a form field, and perhaps even read placeholder text in that field, but then not be able to enter text as needed. This provision corresponds to § 1194.21(f) in the existing 508 Standards.

502.3.7 Actions

This section proposes that a list of all actions that can be executed on an object must be programmatically determinable. An example of an “object” is a drop-down menu of states and U.S. territories in an online form. Applications would also be required to allow assistive technology to programmatically execute available actions on objects. While this requirement is new to the 508 Standards, it represents widespread industry practice. It is also already a feature provided by software designed to be accessible. This proposed requirement is important because, on occasion, developers new to accessibility overlook this need.

502.3.8 Focus Cursor

This section proposes that software be required to expose information and mechanisms necessary to programmatically track and modify keyboard focus, text insertion point, and selection attributes of user interface components. An example of “focus cursor” is a database, which, as the user hits the tab key, displays a visible box outlining the various fields. This provision corresponds to § 1194.21(c) in the existing 508 Standards.

502.3.9 Event Notification

This section proposes that programmatic notification of events relevant to user interactions— including changes in a component’s state, value, name, description, or boundary—must be available to assistive technologies. This proposal complements existing 508 Standards § 1194.21(d), but more explicitly requires that changes to on-screen user interfaces be done in a way that such changes, otherwise known as events, are exposed to assistive technology. Such event notification is already a widespread industry practice, and, moreover, a feature provided by software designed to be accessible. This proposed requirement is important to address this issue in these proposed requirements because, on occasion, developers new to accessibility overlook this need.

502.4 Platform Accessibility Features

This section addresses specifications for capabilities that users with disabilities have come to expect as core accessibility features when using today’s platforms and operating systems, such as allowing adjustment of delay before key acceptance and displaying provided captions. These features include: sticky keys; bounce keys; delay keys; show sounds; the ability to produce synthesized speech; and, the capability to display captions included in content. Specifically, this proposal would require platforms and platform software to conform to seven specific sections in ANSI/HFES 200.2, Human Factors Engineering of Software User Interfaces (incorporated by reference in 508 Chapter 1 and 255 Chapter 1). While this proposed requirement (and accompanying incorporation by reference of ANSI/HFES 200.2) is new to the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines, it does not represent a material change from current industry practice. The seven enumerated features were first available as an add-on for the IBM DOS 3.3 operating system (which was publicly released in the mid-1980s), and have been incorporated into every release of the Microsoft Windows® operating system since then.

Question 33. The Board is requesting information from covered entities and other stakeholders on the potential costs or benefits from incorporation of ANSI/HFES 200.2, Human Factors Engineering of Software User Interfaces —Part 2: Accessibility (2008). Are there suggestions for other standards that would result in the same level of accessibility?

503 Applications

This is an introductory section.

503.1 General

This section addresses specifications for non-Web software—that is, programs with a user interface that are executed on a computing platform—related to certain user preferences, interfaces, and controls. The proposed requirements in this section are separate from, and in addition to, any required conformance to WCAG 2.0 success criteria that may be otherwise required under the proposed 508 Standards (under E207) or the 255 Guidelines (under C205).

503.2 User Preferences

This section proposes that applications must permit user preferences to carry over from platform settings for text color, contrast, font type, font size, and focus cursor. This closely corresponds to § 1194.21(g) in the existing 508 Standards.

An exception is provided that would exempt software designed to be isolated from the underlying operating system. Lightweight applications (often called “applets”) using the Adobe® Flash® Platform, Oracle® Java Platform, W3C HTML 5 platform, and similar technologies, are commonly isolated in this way for security reasons. Accordingly, it would be a fundamental alteration to require such applications to carry over platform settings.

503.3 Alternative User Interfaces

This section proposes to require that, when applications provide alternative user interfaces that function as assistive technology, such applications must use platform accessibility services (i.e., APIs). Examples of alternative user interfaces include on-screen keyboards for a single switch user, and screen reading software for a person who is blind. This proposed requirement would be new to the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines. It is included in this proposed rule to address the accessibility gap that would occur should developers of novel interfaces not consider their products to be assistive technology and, consequently, conclude they may ignore the requirements for interoperability with assistive technology (proposed 502). By clarifying that alternative user interfaces functioning as assistive technology need to satisfy interoperability requirements, the section aims to forestall the rare, but problematic, situation where there is a question about whether a product should be treated as assistive technology or another type of software.

503.4 User Controls for Captions and Audio Description

This proposed section addresses the accessibility of on-screen controls for captioning and audio description. Specifically, this provision would require software displaying video with synchronized audio to locate user controls for closed captions and audio description at the same menu level as common user controls (i.e., volume, program selection), as set forth in two accompanying subsections (proposed 503.4.1 and 503.4.2).

These proposed requirements for accessibility of software-based on-screen controls for captions and audio description serve as a complement to the near-identical requirements for hardware-related controls in Chapter 4. See discussion above in Section VI.C (Section-by-Section Analysis – section 413 User Controls for Captions and Audio Description). These proposed requirements would be new to the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines. The Advisory Committee recommended inclusion of these provisions to ensure that persons with hearing- and vision-related disabilities can find—and use—captioning and audio description controls. See TEITAC Report, Rec. 4-C.

503.4.1 Caption Controls

This proposed section would require that, where video-capable software provides on-screen volume adjustment controls, such ICT must also have a control for closed captioning at the same menu level as the volume adjustment controls.

503.4.2 Audio Description Controls

This proposed section would require that, where video-capable software provides on-screen controls for program selection, such software must have user controls for audio description at the same menu level as the volume or program selection controls.

504 Authoring Tools

This is an introductory section.

504.1 General

This section proposes requirements for software used to create or edit electronic content— which is generally referred to as authoring tools—to ensure the accessibility of this content. Specifically, authoring tools would be required to conform to accessibility requirements related to content creation and editing (504.2), prompts (504.3), and templates (504.4) to the extent supported by the destination format. Authoring tools include applications that allow users to develop new Web pages, edit video, or create electronic documents. Authoring tools can also be used to create and publish content for use with telecommunications products or services. One example of a telecommunications equipment-based authoring tool is an interactive voice response system (IVR) that uses software capable of creating content used to populate menu choices.

These proposed requirements for authoring tools are new to the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines. The Advisory Committee discussed authoring tools and offered recommendations on certain provisions, but did not achieve consensus on others. See TEITAC Report, Part 7, Subpt. C, Rec. 7. Industry is already trending toward providing mainstream document creation tools that facilitate accessible output. For example, two mainstream authoring tools that support accessible document creation and accessibility checking tools are Adobe Acrobat® XI Pro and Microsoft® Office software products. Any cost increases for this requirement should be quite modest for products that already support accessibility. It is not uncommon for developers of niche products to first learn about Section 508 because their product exports reports to PDF, and government customers are likely to encounter end-user complaints when such reports are inaccessible. In this way, while a particular authoring tool may be used only by a small number of people, its outputs—such as government reports—may be widely distributed to the public.

Benefits of accessible content created or edited with authoring tools conforming to proposed 504.1 would accrue to a wide range of disabilities, and the costs associated with making such tools capable of producing accessible output are likely to be minimal. Developers already understand how to make electronic documents accessible in commonly used formats (i.e., HTML, PDF, MS-Word), and it is typically much less expensive to “build in” accessibility when an authoring tool is first developed as opposed to remediating after a product has been developed.

504.2 Content Creation or Editing

This section proposes to require authoring tools to include at least one mode of operation for creating or editing content that conforms to WCAG 2.0 Success Criteria for all features and formats supported by the authoring tool. Additionally, authoring tools must provide users with the option of overriding information required for accessibility to provide flexibility during the authoring process. A proposed exception would exempt authoring tools from compliance when authoring tools are used to directly edit plain text source code (e.g., Emacs and Windows Notepad). This exception is needed because plain text is fundamentally limited in its ability to encode accessibility features.

504.2.1 Preservation of Accessibility Information in Format Conversion

This section proposes that authoring tools, when converting content or saving content in multiple formats, must preserve information required for accessibility to the extent supported by the destination format. This proposed requirement is similar to § 1194.23(j) in the existing 508 Standards. Because not all authoring tools support different file formats, this provision would only apply when such a tool provides a file conversion feature.

504.3 Prompts

This proposed section would require authoring tools to proactively support the creation of accessible content by providing a mode of operation that prompts users—either during initial content creation or when content is saved—to create accessible content that conforms to all applicable Level A and AA Success Criteria in WCAG 2.0. This requirement is intended to ensure that users have access to accessibility features supported by their authoring tools.

504.4 Templates

This proposed section would require that, where authoring tools provide templates, templates that facilitate the creation of accessible content conforming to all applicable WCAG 2.0 Level A and Level AA Success Criteria must be provided for a range of template uses. It is much easier to start with an accessible template as compared to adding accessibility features to otherwise finished content. Remediating accessibility problems after content development increases the cost and time necessary to produce accessible content.

Chapter 6: Support Documentation and Services

Chapter 6 covers accessibility requirements for ICT support documentation and services. This section also would require support services such as help desks, call centers, training services, and automated self-service technical support systems that provide documentation to make available (in accessible formats) the documentation regarding accessibility and compatibility features. Support services would also be required to accommodate the communication needs of individuals with disabilities.

The proposed requirements in this chapter are largely consistent with existing 508 Standards § 1194.41 and existing 255 Guidelines § 1193.33, but would enhance specifications, as discussed below, for certain types of support documentation and services. The Advisory Committee recommended inclusion of provisions on support documentation and services in the proposed rule. See TEITAC Report, Part 6, Subpt. D, Rec. 1.

601 General

This is an introductory section.

601.1 Scope

This section proposes that the technical requirements for support documentation and services in this chapter be applied where either (a) required by 508 Chapter 2 or 255 Chapter 2, or (b) where otherwise referenced in any other chapters.

602 Support Documentation

This is an introductory section.

602.1 General

This section proposes to require documentation supporting the use of ICT to conform to the requirements in the accompanying subsections concerning identification of accessibility and compatibility features (602.2), electronic support documentation (602.3), and alternate formats for non-electronic support documentation (602.4). These proposals for accessible support documentation are derived from §§ 1194.41 and 1193.33 of the existing 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines respectively, but the requirement that electronic documentation comply with WCAG 2.0 or PDF/UA-1 would be new to both the standards and the guidelines. Requiring that comprehensive product information be available to users with disabilities is important because product installation and configuration can often impact its accessibility.

602.2 Accessibility and Compatibility Features

This section provides specifications for ICT documentation in terms of accessibility and compatibility features that assist users with disabilities. Such documentation includes installation guides, user guides, online support, and manuals that describe features of a product and how it is used. All formats of documentation are covered, including printed and electronic documents, and Web-based product support pages.

Proposed 602.2 would require documentation to identify, as well as explain how to use, accessibility features that are required by the 508 Standards or 255 Guidelines. The requirements of this section derive from §§ 1194.41(b) and 1193.33 of the existing 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines, respectively, and are essentially unchanged.

This provision is proposed because some users with disabilities have complained about a lack of information available to help them understand the accessibility and compatibility features of some ICT. Documentation of accessibility features may include, for example, instructions on use of the voice guidance system of a multifunction office machine, or guidance on using software designed for compatibility with commonly used assistive technologies (such as screen readers, refreshable braille displays, and voice recognition software).

602.3 Electronic Support Documentation

This section proposes to require documentation in electronic formats—including Web-based self-service support and electronic documents—to conform to all Level A and AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements in WCAG 2.0 or ISO 14289-1 (PDF/UA-1), which are each incorporated by reference in 508 Chapter 1 and 255 Chapter 1. This proposal for accessible electronic support documentation is derived from §§ 1194.41 and 1193.33 of the existing 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines respectively, but the requirement that electronic documentation comply with WCAG 2.0 or PDF/UA-1 would be new to both the standards and the guidelines. The purpose of this requirement is to ensure that support documentation is held to the same accessibility requirements as other types of covered content. The Board included similar provisions in the 2010 and 2011 ANPRMs, and received no adverse comments objecting to this approach.

Question 34. The Board requests that telecommunications equipment manufacturers provide information on the costs associated with producing documentation on the accessible features of products in a format consistent with the WCAG 2.0 Success Criteria. Is it readily achievable to provide this information in an accessible format? If not, how would it be provided?

602.4 Alternate Formats for Non-Electronic Support Documentation

This section proposes that, where documentation is provided in written (i.e., hard copy) format, such documentation must also be made available, upon request, in alternate formats usable by individuals who are blind or have low vision. This proposed requirement is taken from §§ 1194.41(a) and 1193.33(a)(2) of the existing 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines, respectively, with minor editorial changes.

603 Support Services

This is an introductory section.

603.1 General

This section addresses the accessibility of ICT support services, such as help desks, call centers, training centers, and automated self-service technical support. Such support services would be required to conform to the requirements concerning information on accessibility and compatibility features (603.2), as well as accommodation for the communication needs of persons with disabilities (603.3). These proposed requirements for accessible support services are drawn from §§ 1194.41 and 1193.93 of the existing 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines respectively, but have been revised—as supported by the Advisory Committee—to specify methods of delivery for support services. See TEITAC Report, Pt. 6, Subpt. D, Recs. 1.1-A & 1.2-A.

603.2 Information on Accessibility and Compatibility Features

This proposed section complements the product documentation requirements in section 602 by proposing that ICT support services include information on the accessibility and compatibility features for which documentation is required under proposed 602.2.

603.3 Accommodation of Communication Needs

This proposed section would permit compliant support services to be delivered through either of two methods: directly to the user or through referral to a point of contact. This section also would require ICT support services to accommodate the communication needs of individuals with disabilities. The portion of this proposal relating to two specific methods for delivery of support services is based on existing 255 Guidelines §§ 1193.33(a)(3) and 1193.33(b), and would be new to the 508 Standards. The portion of the proposal relating to accommodation of communication needs derives from §§ 1194.41(c) and 1193.33 of the 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines, respectively.