The last updated draft of Section 508 standards was published in the Federal Register on December 8, 2011, and the comment period ran through March 7, 2012. The draft status at that time was that of an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), which is two steps removed from the final publication of the rule. The next steps to enacting this rule are a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), and then the final publication. As of the Fall 2013 Regulatory Agenda, the Access Board was tracking a publication time frame of March 2013 for the NPRM. Based on discussions with the Access Board, the current plan is to present the draft NPRM to the Board for approval during the mid-March 2014 Access Board meeting. Once the draft is approved, it would be submitted to the Office of Budget Management (OMB) for approval by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which reviews the impact assessment developed by the Access Board. Based on Executive Order, OMB has a ninety day period to approve the impact assessment. Once received by Access Board from OMB any comments or notes from OMB must be incorporated in the NPRM prior to publication. Given these factors SSB is currently tracking the publication of the Section 508 Refresh NPRM in Q3 2014.
Once the NPRM is published, the Access Board generally allows for a ninety day comment period on the document. For example, the 2010 ANPRM was published on March 22, 2010 with a comment period extending to June 21, 2010; similarly, the 2011 ANPRM was published in the Federal Register on December 8, 2011 with a comment period extending to March 7, 2012. It is worth noting, however, that the comment period could be as long as 180 days and the exact length of the comment period may vary from ninety days.
After this comment period, the Board will address the final comments and issue a final rule. Given the wide interest in Section 508, SSB has assumed a one year period for reviewing the comments and publishing a final rule. Based on this timeframe, SSB expect the final rule to be published in Q4 2015.
Once published, Section 508(a)(3) 29 USC § 794d (a)(3) of the Rehabilitation Act requires that within 6 months of the publication of the final standards by the Access Board, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council revises the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). In addition, each appropriate Federal department or agency must revise their procurement policies and directives, as necessary, to incorporate the revisions. Finally, enforcement requirements – Section 508(f)(1)(A) – provide for complaints to be filled 6 months after the date of implementation of the final standards. As such, in practice, the actual implementation date of the standards is practically pushed out another six months. So, in practice, the earliest implementation time frame for the updated standards would be Q2 2016.