The agency is modernizing its online appeals system used by feds. Accessibility needs to be a central part of that entire process, said agency officials.
The Merit Systems Protection Board is in the middle of a multi-year process to modernize the online system feds use to file appeals.
Currently, feds can still file paper appeals, although the agency encourages electronic filing, said Dennis Oden, the accessibility program manager at MSPB.
MPSB's online "e-Appeals" platform is about 12 or 13 years old. The agency has to run virtual machines that run Windows 7 to keep it going, since certain applications in it were written specifically for Windows 7, which is now out of support, said Oden.
The agency's modernization work comes amid a record four-year span without a MSPB quorum to decide appeals. MSPB is currently facing a backlog of over 3,000 cases. President Biden's nominees for the board are awaiting confirmation in the Senate.
With the agency still not fully back in the office, online filing is critical in reducing appeals delays, the agency has said. MSPB ended maximum telework on Oct. 4, but not all MSPB employees are physically in offices to do things like process the delivery of paperwork related to appeals.
The work on the online appeals platform is part of the agency's broader IT modernization efforts.
The agency started modernizing its core business applications in fiscal year 2019, according to an MSPB budget document.
A new case management workflow system to process and track appeals and petitions for review will eventually replace the current online appeals system, as well as other legacy systems that prevent the agency from doing its appeals completely online.
MPSB is targeting a release this fiscal year for the new enterprise case management and e-filing system, according to the document.
Oden spoke about the agency's efforts with Robert Duffy, the CIO and director of the office of information and resource management at MSPB, on Oct. 12 at the 2021 Annual Interagency Accessibility Forum, hosted General Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Labor and MSPB.
MSPB officials stressed that compliance in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which specifies website safety and accessibility standards for government websites, needs to be "baked in" throughout IT processes.
That includes partnering with MSPB acquisition and budget officials to ensure that contract language addresses both cybersecurity and accessibility, said Duffy.
When MSPB started looking for solutions, Duffy was vocal about considering the accessibility of potential solutions from the start, Oden said.