Budget and Performance

Gretchen Jacobs
General Counsel / Chief FOIA Officer

The US Access Board is 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 2016.

When responding to FOIA requests, the Access Board’s practice is to release as much responsive material as possible.  In this respect, 2016 was no exception – of the six FOIA requests received in 2016 for which the agency possessed responsive records, five of the six requests were granted in full.  On the sixth request, we did not withhold any records; rather, the request was partially denied because it did not reasonably describe certain aspects of records sought.  The agency did not have occasion to apply the foreseeable harm standard.

In addition, the Access Board proactively posts on its website all new materials developed by the agency that are believed to be of interest to the public, including: technical assistance and guidance documents; agency policy statements; rulemaking and Advisory Committee materials; copies of agency-sponsored research studies or reports; and, 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 requesters (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.  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, though the agency did not receive any formal requests for expedited processing in 2016, we endeavor to treat every request as “expedited” to ensure timely processing and response.  Consequently, in 2016, all but one of the FOIA requests received by the agency were processed and completed in full within 20 days of receipt.  Only one request exceeded this 20-day response threshold, owing to an extended consultation period with another federal agency that ultimately resulted in the particular consulted-upon document being released in full.  Overall, in 2016, our average response time for all perfected FOIA requests was 18 days. 

In sum, the Access Board is proud of its tradition of handling FOIA requests in a timely and professional manner.  As a testament to our customer-friendly approach, this past year the Access Board received “thank-yous” from several FOIA requesters that commended us for our prompt and courteous handling of their requests.