Information and Communication Technology
Information and Communication Technology (ICT)
Accessible Information and Communication Technology (ICT) makes accessing electronic communications and equipment available to individuals with disabilities. Federal agencies are obligated under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act to design websites and develop electronic documents so they meet minimum standards to ensure they are accessible to and useable by individuals with disabilities. Section 508 is enforced by the US Access Board.
Section 508 was recently updated to keep pace with technology yet to be developed. The updated rule also applies to guidelines for telecommunications equipment subject to Section 255 of the Communications Act.
“This update is essential to ensure that the the Access Board’s Section 508 standards and the Communications Act guidelines keep pace with the ever-changing technologies covered and continue to meet the access needs of people with disabilities,” states Sachin Pavithran, Chair of the Board’s ICT ad hoc committee. “The Access Board is grateful for the input it received from the public and stakeholders throughout the rulemaking process which greatly enhanced the final product.”
The rule jointly updates and reorganizes the Section 508 standards and Section 255 guidelines in response to market trends and innovations, such as the convergence of technologies. The refresh also harmonizes these requirements with other guidelines and standards both in the U.S. and abroad, including standards issued by the European Commission and with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a globally recognized voluntary consensus standard for web content and ICT. In fact, the rule references Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements in WCAG 2.0 and applies them not only to websites, but also to electronic documents and software.
“Throughout this process,” according to Access Board Executive Director David M. Capozzi, “the Board worked very hard to ensure consistency with other consensus guidelines and international standards to promote global harmonization and facilitate compliance.” He noted that, “ICT requirements that are closely aligned remove ambiguity, increase marketplace competition, and lead to better accessibility features and outcomes.”
The updated requirements specify the technologies covered and provide both performance-based and technical requirements for hardware, software, and support documentation and services. Access is addressed for all types of disabilities, including those pertaining to vision, hearing, color perception, speech, cognition, manual dexterity, and reach. The rule, which will be published later this month in the Federal Register, restructures provisions so that they are categorized by functionality instead of by product type due to the increasingly multi-functional capabilities of ICT products. Revisions are also made to improve ICT usability, including interoperability with assistive technologies, and to clarify the types of ICT covered, such as electronic documents.
The Board released a proposed version of the rule for public comment in February 2015 and, before that, earlier drafts of the rule. The rule is based on recommendations from an advisory panel the Board chartered, the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee which included representatives from industry, disability groups, government agencies, foreign countries, and other stakeholders.
The rule will take effect in one year. The Section 508 Standards, which are incorporated into the federal government’s procurement regulations, apply to ICT procured, developed, maintained, or used by federal agencies. The Communications Act guidelines cover telephones, cell phones, pagers, computers with modems, switching equipment and other telecommunications equipment.
Accessible IT & Assistive Technology Resources
Accessible information technology is technology that can be used by people with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. Accessible technology is either directly accessible -in other words, it is usable without assistive technology - or it is compatible with standard assistive technology. Each user is able to interact with the technology in ways that work best for him or her.
Information Technology (IT) is essential and ubiquitous in today's business environment. However, Information Technology at times also create barriers for individuals with disabilities, especially for people unable to operate a standard keyboard or mouse. People may experience access issues using technology ranging from computers and web sites to the telephone and photocopiers. Articles on Accessible Technology
Below is a complete list of accessibility articles in the AccessibleTech.org Resource Library, arranged by topic covered. Select any of the topic groups to the right to jump quickly to a particular topic list. Select any article title to view the article.
Assistive technology is technology used by individuals with disabilities in order to perform or improve functions that might otherwise be difficult or impossible.
Assistive technology can include mobility devices such as walkers and wheelchairs, as well as hardware, software, and peripherals that assist people with disabilities in accessing computers or other information technologies. Through the use of assistive technology people can keep working or regain employment. Assistive technology in the work place can range from a simple pointing device to a sophisticated screen reading program.
Further resources on Accessible IT & Assistive Technology can be found on our Online resource page.
Technical Assistance & Training
The Pacific ADA Center operates a regional toll-free information line for answering questions about accessible information technology and the legal implications which apply to federal, state, local and private entities. Call us toll-free at 1-800-949-4232 (V/TTY) or contact us by e-mail.
The Pacific ADA Center offers education and training in a number of ways, including onsite seminars and training, hands-on participation and public presentations. Training programs are customized to meet the specific learning objectives of the audience. For more information visit our training page.