Gretchen Jacobs

General Counsel / Chief FOIA Officer

The US Access Board is a small, independent federal agency dedicated to equality for people with disabilities through leadership in accessible design and the development of accessibility guidelines and standards for the built environment, transportation, communication, medical diagnostic equipment, and information technology. We are also a low volume agency, receiving, on average, less than 15 FOIA requests annually.  Nonetheless, we take our obligations under FOIA seriously, and are committed to the presumption of openness when responding to FOIA requests.

This report highlights some of the notable aspects of the Access Board’s implementation of its FOIA program in Fiscal Year 2018 (FY2018).

When responding to FOIA requests, the Access Board’s practice is to respond in a timely manner and release as much responsive material as possible, consistent with applicable law.  In this respect, our FOIA program in FY2018 was no exception.  The Access Board received eight FOIA requests, six of which were processed within 20 working days or less.  The average number of days to process these simple requests was 14 days, as reported in the Access Board’s FY2018 Annual FOIA Report.  Of the three perfected requests for which the agency possessed responsive records, two requests were granted in full.  The other perfected FOIA request, which involved a large volume of electronic records and required line-by-line review pursuant to multiple exemptions (predominantly, Exemptions 5 and 6), still resulted in the partial disclosure of a significant number of responsive records.  The agency did not have occasion to make any releases under the foreseeable harm standard in FY2018, nor did it receive any FOIA administrative appeals.

As reported in Section XII of the Access Board’s FY2018 Annual FOIA Report, the Access Board received one consultation from another federal agency, which was processed in one calendar day.

In addition, the Access Board successfully utilized technology by proactively posting on its website all new materials developed by the agency that we believe will be of interest to the public, including:  technical assistance documents and animations; agency policy statements; rulemaking and Advisory Committee materials; copies of agency-sponsored research studies or reports; and, archived videos of live-streamed public Board meetings.  All materials are made available in accessible formats that comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which facilitates broad access for all, including persons with disabilities.

Because the Access Boards is a micro-agency with under 30 full-time employees, we do not have any full-time FOIA officers.  Nonetheless, to some extent, our small size permits us to treat FOIA requestors (and their requests) in a more personal manner than is often possible at larger or higher-volume federal agencies.  We have streamlined our FOIA program so that all requests are considered on a single track.  To ensure good communication with our requestors, initial agency responses acknowledging receipt are prepared manually and typically sent within two business days of receipt of the FOIA request; frequently, we are able to provide a full response to the requester as part of this initial response.  Moreover, while the agency did receive one formal request for expedited processing in 2018, we endeavor to treat every request as “expedited” to ensure timely processing and response.  In sum, the Access Board is proud of its tradition of handling FOIA requests in a timely and professional manner.