Just announced: Level Access and eSSENTIAL Accessibility agree to merge! Read more.

On February 18, the U.S. Access Board released the proposed Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Standards and Guidelines that would update the standards for Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Communications Act for public comment. This is a continuation of the process to update these standards (see the Section 508 category on the blog) and is one step removed from final issuance of the standards.

The updated standards reflect changes in the technology landscape due to development of new technologies, the convergence of technologies and the increasingly multi-functional capabilities of products such as smart phones. As with previous drafts of the proposed rule, the update focuses on the following key areas:

  • The standards are now organized by function rather than technology type – that is, what the product does rather than what it is;
  • Harmonization with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, an industry and global standard for making web content accessible to people with disabilities;
  • A requirement that any products providing two-way, real-time voice communication include the functionality to transmit real-time text (RTT) which displays characters as they are typed instead of as a block of text;
  • Further clarification of internal agency content that is subject to compliance with the standards;
  • Specific requirements for electronic documents and for re-usable modules such as templates and software development kits

The Board is seeking public comments on the rule as well as a preliminary assessment of its estimated costs and benefits. Comments are due by May 28, 2015. The Board will also hold public hearings in San Diego on March 5 and in Washington D.C. on March 11, 2015 where individuals and organizations may testify on the rule. The Board will also conduct a public webinar to review the proposal on March 31.

Further information about the proposal is available on the Access Board’s ICT Refresh page or by contacting Timothy Creagan at (202) 272-0016 (v), (202) 272-0074 (TTY), or 508@access-board.gov.