RE: Upcoming Section 508 and Section 255 Access Technology Standards

Year: 
2008
Resolution Number: 
2008-10

RESOLUTION 2008-10
RE: Upcoming Section 508 and Section 255 Access Technology Standards

WHEREAS, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Communications Act of 1996 are two laws regarding accessible information and communication technology for which technical standards and guidelines have been promulgated under the auspices of the U.S. Access Board; and

WHEREAS, Section 508 requires federal agencies to procure accessible electronic and information technology and to be guided in these procurements by technical standards promulgated by the Access Board; and

WHEREAS, Section 255 of the Communications Act of 1996 requires certain telecommunications-related equipment and services to be designed, developed, and fabricated to be accessible to and usable by people with disabilities if readily achievable under guidelines promulgated by the Access Board; and

WHEREAS, in 2006, to update the standards and guidelines for Section 508 and Section 255, the Access Board established the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee (TEITAC), consisting of representatives from industry, the disability community, the federal government, and international standards organizations; and

WHEREAS, the TEITAC, which included representation from the National Federation of the Blind, began its work in September 2006 and produced a substantial report that was submitted to the Access Board in April 2008; and

WHEREAS, this report, which took almost two years to produce, is but the first step of many that must be taken before the Access Board publishes updated standards and guidelines, and the very real possibility exists that new standards and guidelines may not be issued for several years to come; and

WHEREAS, these cumbersome processes are being outpaced by rapid and significant changes--both in mainstream information technology and in assistive technology; and

WHEREAS, while the standards and guidelines have assumed that computers and telecommunications equipment are discrete technologies, cell phones, computers and personal digital assistants are quickly and inevitably evolving into devices that can perform the functions of what used to be three separate pieces of technology; and

WHEREAS, many devices that exist today already have assistive technology built into them, making it difficult if not impossible to separate so-called assistive technology from mainstream technology; and

WHEREAS, under the original standards for Section 508 and the guidelines for Section 255, particular information and communication technologies were too often deemed accessibility-compliant even though they were not usable by the blind; and

WHEREAS, information and communication technologies may be usable by blind people as they are designed, or they may require the addition of access technology such as screen reading software, but in either case the critical issue should be whether blind people can access all functions of any particular information and communication technology: NOW, THEREFORE,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this fifth day of July, 2008, in the city of Dallas, Texas, that this organization call upon the U.S. Access Board to move quickly to promulgate updated technical standards and guidelines for Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Communications Act that are responsive to the rapid changes typical in today's technological world; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the U.S. Access Board to incorporate the following principles into the updated standards:
1. Rather than specifying how accessibility should be achieved, standards and guidelines should specify the functions that accessible information and communication technology should enable a person with a disability to perform and the efficiency with which the function should be able to be performed;
2. Accessibility should be measured according to whether a particular piece of technology affords as timely, accurate, complete, and efficient access as that provided for users who do not have a disability and not according to how well it complies with a set of technical standards or guidelines.

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