Access Board Updates Requirements for Information and Communication Technology

Section 508 and 255 Refresh with reload icon

On January 18, the Access Board published a final rule that updates accessibility requirements for information and communication technology (ICT) in the federal sector covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. The rule also refreshes guidelines for telecommunications equipment subject to Section 255 of the Communications Act.

“This update is essential to ensure that the Board’s Section 508 standards and the Communications Act guidelines keep pace with the ever-changing technologies covered and continue to meet the access needs of people with disabilities,” stated Board Member Sachin Pavithran. “The Access Board is grateful for the input it received from the public and stakeholders throughout the rulemaking process which greatly enhanced the final product.”

The rule jointly updates and reorganizes the Section 508 standards and Section 255 guidelines in response to market trends and innovations, such as the convergence of technologies. The refresh also harmonizes these requirements with other guidelines and standards both in the U.S. and abroad, including standards issued by the European Commission and with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a globally recognized voluntary consensus standard for web content and ICT. In fact, the rule references Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements in WCAG 2.0 and applies them not only to websites, but also to electronic documents and software.

“Throughout this process,” according to Access Board Executive Director David M. Capozzi, “the Board worked very hard to ensure consistency with other consensus guidelines and international standards to promote global harmonization and facilitate compliance.” He noted that, “ICT requirements that are closely aligned remove ambiguity, increase marketplace competition, and lead to better accessibility features and outcomes.”

The updated requirements specify the technologies covered and provide both performance-based and technical requirements for hardware, software, and support documentation and services. Access is addressed for all types of disabilities, including those pertaining to vision, hearing, color perception, speech, cognition, manual dexterity, and reach. The rule restructures provisions so that they are categorized by functionality instead of by product type due to the increasingly multi-functional capabilities of ICT products. Revisions are also made to improve ICT usability, including interoperability with assistive technologies, and to clarify the types of ICT covered, such as electronic documents.

The Board released a proposed version of the rule for public comment in February 2015 and, before that, earlier drafts of the rule. The rule is based on recommendations from an advisory panel the Board chartered, the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee which included representatives from industry, disability groups, government agencies, foreign countries, and other stakeholders.

The Section 508 standards, which are incorporated into the federal government’s procurement regulations, apply to ICT procured, developed, maintained, or used by federal agencies. The Communications Act guidelines cover telephones, cell phones, pagers, computers with modems, switching equipment and other telecommunications equipment.

The Board conducted webinars on the rule on January 31 and February 2 which were recorded and archived. In addition, an overview of the rule is available.

For further information, visit the Board’s website or contact Timothy Creagan at (202) 272-0016 (v), (202) 272-0074 (TTY), or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 


Access Board Issues Standards for Medical Diagnostic Equipment

woman transferring from wheelchair to exam tableThe Access Board issued new accessibility standards for medical diagnostic equipment (MDE) on January 9 under section 510 of the Rehabilitation Act. The standards provide design criteria for examination tables and chairs, weight scales, radiological and mammography equipment, and other diagnostic equipment that are accessible to people with disabilities. They include requirements for equipment that requires transfer from mobility aids and address transfer surfaces, support rails, armrests, and other features. The Board developed the standards in consultation with the Food and Drug Administration.

"The new standards will be instrumental in ensuring access to health care services," declared Regina Blye, Vice Chair of the Access Board. "The Board is pleased to fill this gap in accessibility because diagnostic equipment has remained problematic for many people with disabilities due largely to the lack of design specifications for making such equipment accessible."

Barriers to diagnostic equipment include equipment height and other dimensions, the lack of supports and features necessary for transfer, and the characteristics of contact surfaces. The standards address these as well as other features such as operable parts and patient instructions. The provisions are organized based on use position (standing, lying down, or seated) and whether transfer from wheelchairs is necessary.

The Board previously issued the standards in proposed form for public comment. Following the comment period, the Board organized a panel of stakeholders to develop recommendations on how the standards should be finalized according to the comments received. The MDE Accessibility Standards Advisory Committee, whose 24 members included representatives from disability groups, equipment manufacturers, health care providers, and standard-setting organizations, among others, presented its recommendations in a report to the Board. The final standards are based on the committee's recommendations and the public comments received on the proposed standards.

As issued by the Board, the standards are not mandatory on health care providers and equipment manufacturers. The U.S. Department of Justice may adopt them as mandatory requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Other federal agencies may implement them as well under the Rehabilitation Act which requires access to federally funded programs and services.

The Board will conduct a webinar on the new standards on March 2 (described below).

Visit the Board's website for additional information or contact Earlene Sesker at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., (202) 272-0022 (v), or (202) 272-0091 (TTY).

 


Animation on Signs Now Available from the Board

Signs animation in player windowA new animation on accessible signage is now available from the Access Board as part of its online guide to standards issued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA). The 15-minute animated film reviews and illustrates requirements in the standards for signs and clarifies common sources of confusion. It covers provisions for visual access, tactile signs, required access symbols and other pictograms.

"We're excited to make this resource available so that the provisions for signs are correctly understood and applied," noted Marsha Mazz, Director of the Board's Office of Technical and Information Services. "The Board receives many questions on this subject, and the new animation is very effective in answering them."

The signs animation is the latest in a series produced by the Access Board. Other animations address wheelchair maneuvering, entrances and doors, toilet and bathing facilities, protruding objects, and parking and passenger loading zones. The animations are viewable on the Board's site, and copies of them can be downloaded as well.

The Board's online guide to the ADA and ABA Standards also features technical bulletins that explain and illustrate requirements and address common questions. Bulletins are currently available on the first five chapters of the standards, including application and scoping, building blocks, accessible routes, accessible means of egress, parking and passenger loading zones, and stairways. The Guide to the ADA Standards covers design requirements for places of public accommodation, commercial facilities, and state and local government facilities subject to the ADA. The Guide to the ABA Standards addresses similar standards that apply under the ABA to facilities that are federally funded.

Future installments to the guides will be released as they become available. Users can sign-up to receive email updates on the release of other animations and bulletins in the series.

 


New Access Board Staff Members

The Access Board recently hired three new employees who serve in the Office of Administration and the Office of Technical and Information Services.

Photos of Edson Carneiro, Sherrice Macklin, and Juliet Shoultz Edson Carneiro joins the Board staff as an IT Specialist. He previously served as an IT Specialist at NCW Resources where he provided on-site technical support to several clients. Prior to that, he was a Global Enterprise and Education Product Support Specialist at Rosetta Stone, Ltd. and provided customer service and technical support to clients around the world. He also worked as a Software Support Analyst II at CR Software LLC.

Sherrice Macklin is a Management and Program Analyst in charge of human resources at the Board. She has 24 years of experience as an employee at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. At the Bureau, she served as a Currency Production Examiner and Supervisor and later took a positon in the Office of Human Resources Training and Development where she was responsible for organizing workforce training, special events, and programs for the agency. She also volunteers her human resource services for the City of District Heights in Maryland.

Juliet Shoultz was named the Board’s Transportation Systems Engineer. She has 15 years of experience in transportation planning and engineering for state government. Most recently, she served as the ADA Policy Engineer at the Illinois Department of Transportation where she led development and implementation of the department’s ADA transition plan and served as the department’s accessibility expert, providing technical assistance and reviewing plans for state projects. She is a member of the Transportation Research Board’s Standing Committee on Paratransit and previously was a member of the Illinois Accessibility Code Revision Committee which was tasked with revising the Illinois Accessibility Code.

 


Access Board to Hold Next Meeting on March 15

laptop with Board meeting on screen

The Access Board will hold its next meeting March 15 from 1:30 – 3:00 (ET) at the Board's conference space in downtown Washington, D.C. The public is welcome to attend in person or through a live webcast of the meeting. The meeting agenda includes election of Board officers and other activities.

A public comment period will be held during the final 15 minutes of the meeting.  Those interested in making comments in person or by phone should send an email by March 8 to Rose Bunales at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with “Access Board meeting - Public Comment” in the subject line. Please include your name, organization, state, and topic of your comment in the body of the message.

Meeting of the U.S. Access Board     Add to Calendar   
March 15, 1:30 – 3:00
Webcast link: www.access-board.gov/webcast
Access Board Conference Center 
1331 F Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, D.C. 
Note: For the comfort of all participants and to promote a fragrance-free environment, attendees are requested not to use perfume, cologne, or other fragrances.

 


Upcoming Board Webinarlaptop with Access Board seal

The next webinar in the Board’s free monthly series will take place March 2 from 2:30 – 4:00 (ET) and cover new standards the Access Board recently issued for medical diagnostic equipment. Presenters will review requirements of the standards which address transfer surfaces and supports, armrests, compatibility with lift devices, and other access features. Attendees can submit questions in advance or during the webinar.

Visit www.accessibilityonline.org for more information or to register. Webinar attendees can earn continuing education credits (CEUs). Archived copies of previous Board webinars are available on the site. The webinar series is made available in cooperation with the ADA National Network.

 


DOJ Proposes Updates to its Section 504 RegulationsDOJ seal

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued for public comment a proposed rule updating its regulations implementing section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 prohibits discrimination based on disability in programs and activities that are conducted or funded by Federal agencies. Each Federal agency is responsible for ensuring that the programs and activities it funds are accessible as required by Section 504.

The proposed update incorporates amendments made to the Rehabilitation Act as well as several Supreme Court decisions interpreting section 504 requirements. In addition, revisions are proposed to promote consistency with DOJ’s ADA regulations and to update accessibility standards for new and altered facilities by applying standards implemented under the ADA. The rule also includes various organizational and editorial changes to make the regulation clearer and easier to follow.

Further information, including instructions on submitting comments, is available on DOJ’s website. Comments are due March 20. 

 


Education Department Issues Section 504 Resource Guide for Parents and Educators

ED seal

The U.S. Department of Education has issued a resource guide for parents and educators on how requirements of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act apply to public education. The 47-page document, “Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools,” reviews section 504 requirements, describes responsibilities school districts have under the law, and outlines steps parents can take to make sure their children receive the services that they are entitled to. Under section 504, students with disabilities in public elementary and secondary schools must be provided regular or special education and related aids and services to meet individual educational needs. The guide also covers available services and complaint processes and discusses requirements of the ADA and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Visit the Education Department’s website for further information.

 


DOT Releases Training Tools for Improving Air Travel Accessibility

DOT logo

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has released training materials on passenger rights and airline responsibilities under the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA). The ACAA prohibits airlines from discriminating against passengers with disabilities, and regulations issued by DOT under the act require that airlines train to proficiency all airline personnel and contractors who interact with the traveling public.

The new materials include videos, brochures, and tip sheets on topics that are often the subject of passenger complaints, including wheelchair and guide assistance, proper handling and stowage of mobility aids and other assistive devices, service animals, and seating accommodations. The information is intended to supplement the disability-related training that airlines must provide their employees and contractors. It also includes material for passengers with disabilities that explains their rights under the ACAA. DOT worked closely with advocacy groups, airlines, and airports in developing these resources.

Additional information, including other resources on accessible air travel, is available on DOT’s website.

 


FCC Appoints Members to Disability Advisory Committee

FCC logo

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has authorized a second two-year term for its Disability Advisory Committee and announced its membership. The Committee, which was first organized two years ago, advises the FCC on communication accessibility issues within its purview, including access to telecommunications services and equipment, hearing aid compatibility, telecommunications relay services, closed captioning, video description, and 911 emergency services.

The committee’s 37 members represent a balanced cross-section of stakeholders and interested parties, including disability organizations, the communications and video programming industries, the public safety industry, trade associations, academics, researchers, and government agencies, and others. Representatives from the Access Board and two other federal agencies serve as ex officio members of the committee. The committee's work is conducted in accordance with regulations governing federal advisory committees.

The Committee’s next meeting is tentatively scheduled for March 21 from 9:00 to 5:00 (ET) at the FCC’s headquarters, 445 12th Street, S.W., Room TW-C305, Washington, DC 205544. The meeting will be open to the public and webcast. For more information, visit the FCC’s website or contact Elaine Gardner at (202) 418-0581 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 


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