Industry tackles 508 regs
Proposed standards for making computers and other electronic equipment accessible to people with disabilities have myriad shortcomings, according to an information technology industry group.
Proposed standards for making computers and other electronic equipment accessible
to people with disabilities have myriad shortcomings, according to an information
technology industry group.
The Information Technology Association of America weighed in during
the last week of the comment period on Section 508, an amendment to the
Workforce Investment Act of 1998.
ITAA said that it supports the goals of the standards but offered many
suggestions to be considered before the Architectural and Transportation
Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) issues a final ruling.
"This is undistilled information from industry to the Access Board,"
said Rex Lint, chairman of the Section 508 working group at ITAA. "We hope
they [review] these suggestions to determine if they're important and apply
them, so we expect to see change."
ITAA suggestions include restating the standards so they take the form
of "technical and functional performance criteria" and not specific design
Specific design requirements lock down developing technologies, Lint
said, but industry "needs as much elbow room as possible to solve things
in different ways as the technology changes."
Other ITAA recommendations include:
* Acknowledging that it will take longer than six months to apply the regulations
to computer products, especially high-end applications and operating systems.
* Clarifying that Section 508 requirements do not apply to maintenance
and administrative functions, including back-office equipment and servers.
* Addressing the lack of formal standards that govern interoperability
between assistive technology and mainstream technology.
"We received about 80 comments, including the ITAA's, and expect over
100 total," said Dave Yanchulis, an accessibility specialist at the Access
Board. "The board will begin reviewing the comments in the coming days,
and deliberations on any changes will take place through June and July,
with all of that time devoted to the internal process."
The standards for Section 508, which were proposed by the Access Board
on March 31, affect a variety of electronic equipment and World Wide Web
sites operated by federal agencies, all of which must be made accessible
unless the agencies can show an "undue burden." When finalized, the Access
Board's Section 508 standards will become part of the federal government's
"This should be a wake-up call for the IT industry," Lint said. "When
they started off, they didn't really have industry's attention, but they've
got our attention now."
—Bill Matthews contributed to this article.
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