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RTT Functionality

The Section 508 Refresh would require that whenever two-way voice communication is provided, real-time text (RTT) functionality be provided to allow for comparable access for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Real-time text is transmitted on a character-by-character basis as the characters are typed, rather than as a single block of text once transmission is complete. Instant messaging and SMS (often called text messages) are examples of text-based communication that sends the message after it is completed rather than character by character. RTT is especially important for emergency situations when a partial message would be valuable.

The RTT functionality provision would apply to the communication providers and the government, and it would cover products that use voice over internet protocol systems like:

  • VOIP phones,
  • Microsoft Skype for Business (formerly Lync),
  • Skype,
  • Google Hangouts,
  • Apple FaceTime, etc.

Expanded Interoperability Requirements

Currently ICT is required to be interoperable (i.e., compatible) with documented features of assistive technology and accessibility features. In the Refresh, the interoperability requirements are updated to be clearer about how technology, (e.g., operating systems, software toolkits, platforms, and browsers) must work together with assistive technology (e.g., screen readers, screen magnifiers, and speech recognition) to increase or maintain access by people with disabilities.

The Refresh indicates that some software that operates within a sandboxed environment within the platform, such as plug-ins like Java and Flash and media players, are exempt from some of the user preferences for accessibility.

Additional interoperability requirements surround the use of applications programming interfaces (API). APIs are agreed-upon methods of communication between software such as a platform or app and an assistive technology. The Refresh has increased the requirements, not only requiring that an API be used to expose information to assistive technology, but that it also allow assistive technology to control the user interface through the API.

Miscellaneous Additions

In addition to the WCAG 2.0, the Section 508 Refresh also references a number of other voluntary consensus standards.

These include standards for:

  • ergonomics for the design of accessible software;
  • interference to hearing aids by wireless telephones;
  • handset generated audio band magnetic noise of wire line telephones;
  • speech quality in digital transmissions;
  • carrying real-time text conversation session contents;
  • TTY signals on the public switched telephone network interfaces;
  • audio description by digital television tuners;
  • accessible PDF files; and
  • keypad arrangement