New IT accessibility regulations could come next week

The U.S. Access Board on Monday appeared to be headed for a vote in favor of new rules designed to help disabled citizens access government information via technology.

A vote count of mail-in ballots from board members Monday was not complete as of Monday afternoon, but it was clear that the rules would pass, according to Doug Wakefield, accessibility specialist at the Access Board. "I don't expect any hitches," Wakefield said.

The rules must receive final approval from the Office of Management and Budget after the vote, but Wakefield said the office already has signed off on the regulation. OMB looks at the cost implications of the rules to ensure they are within budget.

Details of the long-delayed rules, which are required under Section 508 of the 1998 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act, will not be made public until they are published in the Federal Register in the next week or two, Wakefield said.

The Access Board is tasked with developing guidelines to make both the brick-and-mortar and online worlds accessible to the disabled. Under the so-called Section 508 rules, which seek to close the "disability divide," companies that contract for government technology jobs would have to make government computers, software, hardware, Web sites, fax machines and other information sources more accessible to people with visual and other impairments.

An example is a computer touch screen, which can be difficult for a person with poor vision or a trembling hand to operate. Such screens also do not respond to the touch of a prosthetic hand. The new rules would require government contractors to structure government technology to compensate for such needs. Section 508 would not apply to the private sector in general.

The total cost to business and government to meet the regulations is estimated at $85 million to $600 million, but the Access Board believes industry would benefit from them over time because a commercial market would develop for the technologies they develop under government contract. Advocates of the new rules also say they would reduce worker compensation costs.

Twelve federal officials at the assistant secretary level and 13 members of the public appointed by the president were to cast ballots on the Section 508 rules.

The rules have been anticipated for months, as authorities worked them into final form. The proposed rules were published March 31, and the comment period ended May 30.

The final rules are significantly different from the previous version, and Wakefield said, "The changes are bound to upset some people on both sides of the issue." That is the spirit of compromise, he noted.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.