Each year SSB works to develop projections for the application time frames of various different laws and standards that impact our clients. As part of that, we did some research and asked a few questions about the Section 508 Refresh to put together an updated schedule of events and help our customers understand when the standards are likely to come into effect.
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 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. While there is no official date from the Access Board regarding the publication of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), based on discussions with the Access Board, the current plan is to present the draft NPRM to the board for approval by mid-March, which is the Board’s next meeting. Once the draft is approved it would be submitted to the Office of Budget Management (OMB). OMB has a ninety day period to do a fiscal impact assessment. Thus, SSB predicts that the NPRM is not likely to be published until Q3 2013.
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. After this comment period, the Board will address the final comments and issue a final rule. Assuming a three-month comment period and a nine month timeframe for publishing, the final rule is unlikely to be published before Q3 2014.
Once published, Section 508(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 Q1 2015.