Section 508 update to build on existing standards

TEITAC Wiki

Through the Section 508 Refresh, the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee hopes to build on existing standards to better serve disabled Americans.

The Section 508 Refresh will further specify how federal agencies are expected to make electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities, which involves everything from Web sites to applications to multimedia products like faxes and copiers.

In addition, anything the federal government uses, buys, maintains or procures needs to meet a series of access standards developed by the access board, said Pat Sheehan, the Department of Veterans Affairs' Section 508 coordinator.

TEITAC, a federal advisory committee comprised of representatives from more than 40 federal agencies, will submit recommendations to update accessibility in November, according to yesterday’s “Section 508: More than an area code” panel at FOSE.

The committee is also the first advisory board to use a wiki site to publish its resources, standards and guidelines. This opens the board’s documents to the public for feedback. The subcommittee released its first draft March 12.

Those recommendations are intended to ease the implementation efforts of Section 508, which have been thwarted by a lack of resources and security standard development.

The Education Department’s Assistive Technology Program Director Alex Koudry said improved security standards may improve Section 508 efficiency.

“Security and accessibility are very much related – when you talk about information assurance, it is as much making sure the right people get what they need as it is keeping the bad people out, so they have a lot of the same challenges,” Koudry said. “That is one of the areas we’ve been looking at exploring. Security has a lot more resources to it, and it fits very well within information assurance.”

In addition to security and accessibility, the government has made efforts to help educate agencies and private-sector companies through section508.gov. The site includes a  “Buy Accessible Wizard” to help officials identify what parts of Section 508 apply to specific procurements. Section508.gov also includes the “508 Universe” training site that shows how to design Section 508 accessible Web sites, how to buy accessible electronic information technology for contracting officers and how to build and buy accessible software, Koudry said.

States have continued to adopt Section 508 in greater numbers, which will likely give the standards more weight with industries. The Section 508 Access Board has also invited the European Union, China, Japan and Australia to adopt standards to harmonize domestic and international standards and establish consistent service to disabled individuals.

Cranmer is an intern with the 1105 Government Information Group.

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