The Board is undertaking an update of its standards for electronic and information technology in the Federal sector covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. As part of this effort, it is also updating guidelines for telecommunications products subject to Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act. On March 17, the Board released for public comment a draft of the updated standards and guidelines. The draft features a new structure and format that integrates the 508 standards and 255 guidelines into a single document referred to as the “Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Standards and Guidelines.” Requirements have been reorganized according to functionality instead of product type since many devices now feature an array of capabilities and applications. The released draft includes proposed revisions to various performance criteria and technical specifications that are designed to improve accessibility, add clarity to facilitate compliance, address market trends, and promote harmonization with other guidelines and standards.
Products and technologies covered by this rulemaking include telephones and cell phones and other telecommunication products, computer hardware and software, websites, media players, electronic documents, and PDAs, among others. Access is addressed for various disabilities, including those that are sensory, physical, or speech-related in nature. As part of this rulemaking, the Board proposes to supplement its ADA Accessibility Guidelines, which cover access to facilities, to broaden coverage to include certain types of interactive transaction machines such as point-of-sales machines and self-service kiosks.
The draft rule is based on recommendations from the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee. The Board organized this committee to review the original standards and guidelines and to seek consensus on how they should be updated. The Committee, whose 41 members included representatives from industry, disability groups, standard-setting bodies in the U.S. and abroad, and government agencies, submitted its report to the Board in April 2008. The Board prepared the released draft based on its review of the committee's report and included additional changes of its own.
Through this release, the Board seeks comment on both the substance and structure of the document. A notice published by the Board in the Federal Register outlines substantive revisions to the standards and guidelines and highlights issues or topics where additional information from the public is sought. In addition, the Board seeks information for its use in preparing an impact and cost assessment on the changes. Instructions for submitting comments, which are due by June 21, are included in the notice. The Board will use the input received on this draft to prepare a proposed rule that will provide another opportunity for comment. These documents are also posted on www.regulations.gov which allows visitors to view and submit public comments.
The Board will hold a public hearing on the draft rule in San Diego at the 25th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference organized by the California State University at Northridge (CSUN). The hearing will take place March 25 from 9:00 to 12:00 and will be open to the general public, including those who are not registered to attend the conference. In addition, on April 1, the Board will conduct a webinar on the rule to review and explain changes. The webinar will provide an opportunity for questions but will not serve as a forum for submitting comments.
Additional information on this rulemaking is posted on the Section 508 and Section 255 homepages.
For further information, contact Tim Creagan at firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-272-0016 (v), or 202-272-0082 (TTY).