Federal IT accessibility regulations getting a refresh

Requirements for making federal websites, computer applications and other information technology accessible for disabled people are a step closer to getting a refresh.

The U.S. Access Board recently released a revised draft for regulations to ensure that public-facing federal computer hardware and software, websites, cell phones, documents and other IT-related items are accessible to people with disabilities.

Related story:

Federal sites rapped over accessibility problems

In December, the board published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking with the revised draft for IT products and services covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act.

The board previously released a draft of the rule in March 2010 and received nearly 400 comments.

The revised draft incorporates revisions made in response to the feedback, the Access Board said in a Jan. 12 news release.

The board also held a public hearing on Jan. 11 to collect comments on its most recent revised draft of the accessibility regulations covering computer hardware and software, websites, cell phones, documents and other IT-related items.

Several participants urged the board to include requirements for self-service machines and kiosks, touch screens, digital biometric identification devices, and language translation tools, the board said in a news release.

Previous anecdotal reports indicate that some federal websites have had difficulties in meeting all Section 508 requirements. There were initial accessibility complaints about the Recovery.gov website when it first went live, which were quickly resolved.

Under Section 508, websites must use technologies that make them accessible, including software for captioning images for people with hearing problems, and software for identifying onscreen buttons for the visually impaired.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Tue, Jan 17, 2012 OccupyIT

Section 508 compliance is the bare minumum accessibility standard and as such can be implemented by anyone that knows what they are doing. Include Section 508 past performance demonstrations in any system procurement evaluation criteria. Most real vendors provide the more accessible WCAG standard compliance as well. Be inclusive!

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