Those of us waiting for the update of the Section 508 Standards were cheered to learn that the policy-making wheels have begun turning once more. On February 23, the federal group charged with reviewing the proposed rules and regulations the administration is developing began the review process of the draft revised rule. During the next 90 days, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (a.k.a. OIRA – a component of OMB), shares the proposed Section 508 update among federal agencies.
Agencies’ comments must be completed by the end of May. The Access Board will then make updates to the proposed rule and hopefully release a New Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) this summer. Since we’ve already had two rounds of an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in 2010 and 2011, the Access Board may not feel it is necessary to offer a full ninety day public comment period and limit it to 60 days. Barring any unforeseen complications, we might be seeing the Final Rule issued by the end of this calendar year.
The issuance of a revised and updated Section 508 Standard is key to making the technology-based environment we live in today equally accessible to all people. The European Commission Mandate 376 effort has resulted in the recent issuance of a new European standard EN 301 549. Titled “Accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe”, it was developed with the intent to work with the refreshed Section 508 Standard. Along with the issuance of the W3C’s WCAG 2.0 and the recent ANPRMs from the Department of Justice updating the ADA’s approach to websites, a strong message is being sent globally on the importance of accessibility. 2014 is on track to be a banner year!