The Access Board’s Inability to Get Section 508 Refresh Finalized is Negligent and Counter to their Mission

I don’t know why. I don’t care why. What I do know is that the TEITAC Committee issued its final report to the US Access Board on April 2008, yet today (11/17/2011) , we see this:

 "debraruh: Tim Springer asks Tim Creagan when we can expect #Section 508 refresh to become law. Tim Creagan says Fall 2013 is earliest we can expect."

The above comes from a live tweet during a free online webinar hosted by SSB BART Group which featured Tim Creagan and Terry Weaver.

Perspective:

  1. September 27-29, 2006: First TEITAC Committee Meeting
  2. April 3, 2008: Final Report
  3. March 22, 2010: Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
  4. June 21, 2010: Closing date for comments on ANPRM
  5. (per Debra Ruh’s tweet above) November 17, 2011: Tim Creagan announces "Fall 2013 is earliest we can expect" the new standards to become law.

Another Source Discussing Timeline:

At its July 13, 2011 meeting, the Access Board approved a motion to place the latest draft of the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) guidelines and standards in the rulemaking docket once the Board’s ad hoc committee completed its work on the draft, which was expected to be the end of September. The Board approved this motion to facilitate collecting cost information and promote harmonization with standards efforts in Europe. Unfortunately, our work was not completed when we expected.

However, work will be completed before the Board’s next meeting in November. Therefore, the staff will be asking the Board to approve the next version of the ICT rulemaking on November 9. The next version will be an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking; a public comment period will be provided on the ANPRM. This ANPRM will make changes in content and structure from the first ANPRM that was issued in March 2010. If the ANPRM is approved by the Board on November 9, we expect that it will be published in the Federal Register and made available on our website and Regulations.gov in early December.

BuyAccessible.net

How does this compare to the first go-round of 508?

In 1997, The Federal Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility and Compliance Act was proposed in the U.S. legislature to correct the shortcomings of the original section 508; the original Section 508 had turned out to be mostly ineffective, in part due to the lack of enforcement mechanisms. In the end, this Federal Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility and Compliance Act, with revisions, was enacted as the new Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, in 1998.Wikipedia

On May 12, 1999 the EITAAC Committee submitted its report which was required as part of the amendments to the Rehabilitation Act which occurred in 1998:

(A) IN GENERAL.–Not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998, the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (referred to in this section as the ‘Access Board’), after consultation with the Secretary of Education, the Administrator of General Services, the Secretary of Commerce, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, the Secretary of Defense, and the head of any other Federal department or agency that the Access Board determines to be appropriate, including consultation on relevant research findings, and after consultation with the electronic and information technology industry and appropriate public or nonprofit agencies or organizations, including organizations representing individuals with disabilities, shall issue and publish standards setting forth…
Section508.gov

Could someone please explain why it takes five years to get the Refresh done?
With the initial Section 508, it took 2 years to create the committee, create the report, incorporate the report’s findings into Law, and even have the grace period for agencies to comply. Why then, five years after the TEITAC issued their report, do we still not have a new 508?

This is Negligent and Counter to their Mission

The Board is structured to function as a coordinating body among Federal agencies and to directly represent the public, particularly people with disabilities.
About the U.S. Access Board

A major reason why the Refresh process was undertaken was the fact that EIT/ ICT had changed so drastically in the time since the 1998 Amendment happened that the old technology-specific standards in Subpart B were quickly becoming obsolete.

  • Between 1999 and 2006, we’ve seen new technologies such as AJAX, Mobile Web, Tablet PCs, and Adobe Flex
  • Since 2006 we’ve seen iPhones, Android Phones, iPads, Android Tablets, a plethora of JavaScript frameworks, HTML5, and WAI-ARIA

In other words, the neat little compartments that we had in the first Section 508 are no longer so neat and compartmentalized. Web-based systems behave more like software. Telecommunications products are also computers. Everything about technology – especially web and telecommunications – is so different now that the old 508 standards are mostly inapplicable to modern technology. By dragging their feet on the new 508, the Access Board is leaving federal employees, contractors, and vendors on the hook to apply old, out-of-date technical guidelines to new technologies. Procuring officials and requiring officials who are responsible for complying with the law are unable to do their jobs effectively. As a consequence, the ability of federal government agencies to provide accessible EIT/ ICT systems to employees and citizens is being harmed in the process. This is counter to the Access Board’s mission.

I recommend that you contact the Access Board directly if you wish to comment on their continual delays.

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