Shen and I attended the seminar “508: The Next Generation”. Didn’t know quite what to expect, but was looking forward to learning about updates to the current Section 508 Standards. Standards issued by the US Access Board under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act cover access to electronic and information technology procured by Federal agencies. The Board is conducting a joint update of these standards and its guidelines. The presentation was laced with a lot of acronyms that I was unfamiliar with. TEITAC is Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee, ICT is Information and Communication Technology, ANPRM is Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and so on. The presentation was predicated on the release, on March 17, of an ANPRM – a Draft Refresh of Section 508 Standards and Section 255 Guidelines. The draft rule is based on recommendations from the TEITAC. The draft features a new structure and format that integrates the 508 standards and 255 guidelines into a single document referred to as the “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. Still with me? If you are at all familiar with the language employed by government bureaucracy you get the idea. Any faint hope I had that the new and improved 508 standards would be more comprehensible to the layperson began to evaporate as the session wore on and the presenter reiterated that this stuff really is not easy to understand and takes repeated readings and how even he, who had been working on this stuff for years, still found sections that were open to interpretation. However, I have not read the ANPRM, so the verdict is still out. The better part of the session was given over to pointing out a number of proposed changes to the standard and inviting comments.
255 guidelines became effective in ’98, 508 in ’01, the refresh began in ’06, TEITAC issued their report in April ’08, the ANPRM and draft text were released in March of this year, the public comment period ends June 21, 2010. I’m glad they got the ball rolling – the current 508 standards are sorely out of date in some respects – but who knows how much longer it will be until the report becomes regulation?
If you are at all curious about any of this stuff there is a good bit of information and then some to be found at access-board.gov/508.htm. Public comments are to be submitted to regulations.gov. You have to cite docket 2010-1 and/or RIN# 3014-AA37. Full disclosure: regulations.gov is not all that accessible, so you may fare better by submitting your comments via email to Tim Creagan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tim will see to it that your comments are added to the offical record at regulations.gov