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FCW : June 30, 2015
The role of federal CIOs includes a multitude of critical responsibilities: compliance, procurement, records management, privacy and security, as well as bringing mission-supporting technology to employees and the citi- zens they serve. To deliver on those core obligations, CIOs must ensure that the services they manage are accessible to all, including users with disabilities. Throughout my 28-year career in government, our commitment to acces- sibility for all users was unwavering. Yet the alphabet soup of accessibility requirements is complex and slows the ability to provide services that meet the latest standards. Settling on a global accessibility standard would reduce friction between competing standards and create a more efficient path to accessibility, both in the U.S. and abroad. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act seeks to ensure that all the federal government’s electronic and informa- tion technology is accessible to people with disabilities. It governs any technol- ogy the government develops, procures, maintains or uses. Harmonizing our accessibility requirements — specifi- cally the U.S. Access Board’s proposed Information and Communication Tech- nology (ICT) Standards and Guidelines with the similar European standard EN 301 549 — would improve accessibility. It would create a global standard and minimize conflicting interpretations and market confusion while providing cost savings for governments, consum- ers and industry. Updating policy for the global stage The need to harmonize U.S. and Euro- pean policies is a product of the growing international influence of and increased accommodation for those with disabili- ties. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act was adopted in 1986, at a time when the international regulatory climate was far different than it is today. For instance, that was seven years before the estab- lishment of the European Union. It is time we adjust our policies to reflect the need for strong international standards and meet the evolving needs of today’s federal technology landscape. The European standard went through a rigorous approval process and was developed using recommendations from the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee. That international commit- tee, founded by the U.S. Access Board, influenced both the European standard and the U.S. Access Board’s proposed rule. The two accessibility standards are closely aligned and seek the same func- tional outcomes. Yet despite the similari- ties, there is still room for confusion. In my experience, all it takes are minor dif- ferences to increase disparities between interpretation and execution in the ICT community. Our worldwide presence Now that the U.S. Access Board’s pro- posed rule to refresh Section 508 has cleared its 90-day public comment period, the federal government should How standards should get set It is time we adjust our policies to reflect the need for strong international standards and meet the evolving needs of today ’s federal technology landscape. Inside the push to settle on a global standard for online accessibility BY KAREN S. EVANS June 30, 2015 FCW.COM 21 0630fcw_012-025.indd 21 6/10/15 9:40 AM
June 15, 2015
July 15, 2015