Accessibility standards and guidelines play a critical role in promoting digital accessibility from a public policy angle and in setting desired outcomes for digital products, content, and services. The round table will explore progress achieved in global harmonization and adoption, implementation gaps, and the likely evolution of accessibility standards in a rapidly evolving technology environment.
OCTOBER 25, 2022
9:30 AM ET
ROUNDTABLE: NEXT STEPS FOR DIGITAL ACCESSIBILITY POLICIES AND STANDARDS
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Ladies and gentlemen, if you'll kindly take your seats, our next panel is about to reconvene. Ladies and gentlemen, kindly take your seats, our next panel is about to reconvene. Thank you.
NICHOLAS GENNARO SCIASCI: Good morning, again. At this time, I would like to introduce our roundtable discussion Next Steps for Digital Accessibility Policies and Standards moderated by our Session Chair, Tim Springer, CEO of Level Access and eSSENTIAL Accessibility.
TIM SPRINGER: All right. That sounds like a good place to start. I'm waiting for permission. I think we go for it. Cool. Yeah. This is it. Next Steps for digital accessibility policies and standards. What we're going to explore is what's next in the area of standards, policies, possibly even some laws as well thrown into the mix.
So, accessibility standards and guidelines as you all know, play a critical role in promoting digital accessibility and ultimately making all of this happen, and can you think of them as defining the desired outcomes for all of the technology that really is covered in digital accessibility from products, to content, to services and the like. What we're going to try to do with this roundtable is explore the progress we've had, lessons learned to date, also some gaps. But then, ultimately, really the evolution of what we think is going to happen next in quite a rapidly changing environment.
And so what we'll do is I'll do some quick introductions upfront. We'll do some prepared comments from everybody that's on the panel and then try to spend a good bit of time from at the end for Q&A.
So, I'm joined by a couple people today and about me I'm Founder and CEO of eSSENTIAL Access and merge with a company called Level Access next to overly JPMorgan Chase, and our scaling out natively into systems and not sort of added on after the fact and I'd say we're pretty good at it but been doing this for a while and pleasure of knowing most of the people on the stage. Joined by a couple of different people, Judy Brewer directs the world Web IDE web consortium, W3C which I suspect many of you are familiar with, core to the work of digital accessibility over the last forever, I would say probably, and is really focused on improving accessibility for people with disabilities across a variety of different technology mediums, as well as for older users, covers a wide variety of activities and areas and notably for this panel, includes authors and coordinating of authoring into W3C standards, requirements for accessibility and guidelines that account for accessibility. And most of you probably also know the WCAG or Web Content Accessibility Guidelines which have been adopted broadly by governments and regulatory environment and as well as private organizations, and obviously that's a set of requirements or guidelines that the WIA builds as well and Judy has been just core to all of that. So, did I miss anything in there?
JUDY BREWER: I think you covered it.
TIM SPRINGER: Also joined by Diane Burstein, Deputy Chief of the federal and communications affairs, Federal Communications Commission and as Deputy Chief oversees the Disability Rights Office that develops policies and programs that ensure access to communications for people with disabilities. And prior to that, Diane was Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at the Internet and television association where she represented a bunch of the members there on issues related to accessibility services, particularly in the cable television industry. And before that, she was an attorney, but we won't talk about that at all.
Also joined by Sachin Pavithran, the Executive Director of U.S. Access Board, is what I heard, and that is a U.S. Federal Government Agency that has a mission to advance accessibility and inclusion across a variety of different areas of the Federal Government but particularly in the area of guidelines and standards providing technical assistance and education in an organization that has been seminal in the work of deploying digital accessibility broadly over the last 25, 30, 40 years even to some extent.
Sachin has 20 years in direct involvement of building accessible solutions, development, testing training for assistive technology, lectured widely on the topic as well and assisted in evaluation of a bunch of different products and services related to web accessibility and design, also extensive experience in the higher education community as well, and facilitating how do you transition from K 12 to post secondary education and the workforce.
And then Susanna Laurin the chief research innovation officer at Funka a European based marketing European based consultancy in the area of digital accessibility. She's been a thought leader in this area for as long as be I've known here and that covers inclusion, covers e government initiatives, and is a frequent lecturer and debater on these areas, particularly Susanna is the Chair of the ETSI/CEN and CENELEC joint working group on e accessibility and that is responsible for the development and update of EN301549 which is the likely presumed standard for the web accessibility directive of European Accessibility Act. And Susanna leads strategic assessments and a bunch of research projects on the EU level and nationally across the world, so a lot of different experience there.
I think that's a good lean in, lead into that whole thing so let's do some quick updates. Judy, you were going to quick us off. What's the WAI working on today and all that have good stuff?
JUDY BREWER: Thanks, Tim for the lead in and it's an honor to be here on this panel with my favorite CEO with sneakers. (Laughing).
So, we're staying very busy at W3C, the World Wide Web Consortium and Web Accessibility Initiative, so I think most people are familiar with our work on guidelines, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, and we're working on two different updates of that. One is Web Content Accessibility guidelines 2.2 which we're hoping to get out by the end of this year, fingers crossed, and we're also working several years ahead on WCAG 3.0 which would be a different framework and including for conformance evaluation. And you don't need to get ready to use this yet, this is the question we get most frequently. Do I have to need to switch everything to that? No, don't do it now. Do watch what we're doing, do get involved, and so forth.
But as always, we have many, many other things going on in the Web Accessibility Initiative so there are things we're continuing to do behind the scenes and every standard that W3C produces, even if it looks like it has nothing to do with accessibility, we have reviewed from the accessibility effort to make sure it's not introducing a barrier to being accessibility. We also look for barriers to access accessible. Realtime communication in an emergency situation, so for the web and safer and better and so forth, so we're always looking for opportunities to advance that.
In addition, we do a lot of work to try to improve the quality of evaluation of accessibility, so look at the accessibility conformance testing work, the Act rules, and that will in the future lead to more precise testability and also set the stage for better automation of some parts of accessibility testing in the future.
There is a lot of educational work that we have a very strong community always building, and you can look at our website, W3.org/wai and look for something called What We're Working On and something that Shawn Henry part of the team is always updating so you can see what the latest guidelines are.
There is emerging technologies work that we do that I think may still be more hidden, but you might find some interesting things there. Accessibility user requirements for virtual reality, we came out with something on that last year. There is accessibility of remote meetings, there is media synchronization accessibility. We're looking at some natural language accessibility user requirements, and these are areas where there is the need for well thought through user requirements, but it's not at the level yet where we can standardize guidance for that, but it's a good exploratory area.
We're continuing to work on standards, harmonization issues around the world. Very happy to have Susanna in the new role that she's in with the Joint Working Group that you had mentioned there, and there is work in other parts of the world that's growing up more and more.
We're working on translations of our materials so that people can find our work in more languages and so forth. I'm going to mention that I'm in the midst of a transition myself and I've now gone to part time for the next three months to support some to support the transition at W3C and my colleague Michael Cooper may be in the room and he's been our Senior Technical person at WAI for three years and at the conference and taking internship role to keep everything running smoothly. I'm moving to Partnership for Public Service, so I'm actually starting this part time this week and it feels wonderful to have such a strong community that has grown up in web accessibility and digital accessibility that I have full confidence that the work will continue, and this is always a conference where I get reminded by Axel of the great digital accessibility here. So, if you're not involved, please.
TIM SPRINGER: Diane, a little bit of background about Disability Rights Office what you all do and how that all work and pivoting to what you think of policies and standards.
DIANE BURSTEIN: Sure. Thanks for having me here for this important discussion. DRO, Disability Rights Office is part of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau of the FCC and helps to develop accessibility policies and rules, and we have a very large portfolio covering many areas of accessible communications. It includes video, programming accessibility, such as captioning and audio description, accessible advanced communication and equipment such as text messaging. We also cover hearing aid ability for phones and accessibility information on television, and we develop policies for the telecommunications relay service of TRS which is video relay service, Internet protocol caption telephone service and Internet protocol relay service which are intended to provide functional equivalent service for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf/blind or speech disability.
Finally, we work on issues related to realtime text and provide expert advice to the agency on a wide variety of communications issues that affect people with disabilities, and ensure that the FCC policies take disability rights issues into account.
So, we're pretty busy in all of those areas, and like all of the FCC efforts in this area, we're guided by authority provided by Congress in the Communications Act and specifically respect to disability issues and we implement relevant Sections of the Americans with Disabilities Act with respect to TRS and also provisions of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility act, CVAA which updated communications laws to provide rules of the road for the accessibility of modern communications.
So, certainly one area that has come to the forefront during the pandemic has been issues regarding the accessibility of video conferencing platforms, and that's one area that we're looking into right now in 2022, seeking additional information on the FCC's legal authority in that area. The FCC also received a report from the Disability Advisory Committee, the DAC on which some of you in the audience are dealing with how to make the video conferencing platforms work better with TRS services, so that's another area that we're exploring.
With respect to standards and technical rules, DRO is not really a technical standards part of the FCC, and in fact the FCC typically adopts performance based standards as opposed to specific prescriptive technical requirements. However, we often will reference standards developed by voluntary consensus standards setting bodies if such standards will help the entities meet the FCC's performance based goals.
A few specific examples to help illustrate. Closed captioning is one area where we have quite a mix of different approaches to ensure the seamless provision of closed captioning. So, for example, in that area we have certain quality standards that were adopted to ensure that captions are of a specific quality, and they must be accurate, synchronous, complete, and properly placed. But the FCC didn't adopt any specific quality metrics for that to judge compliance, and regulated entities can follow best practices designed to produce quality captions to show compliance with these standards.
But technical standards also come into play in the area of captioning to ensure that program owners could send caption files to program distributers and that the distributers could send caption programming to a device on which consumers could view captions. The FCC relied on community of stakeholder recommendation and rather than specified compliance with a specific standard, used an industry developed standard as a safe harbor. The idea was to provide certainty to regulated entities while enabling the industry to continue to innovate and allow entities to use an alternative standard to fit their needs.
And, also, we've developed performance and display standards for closed captioning decoders, where there are certain functional requirements, such as font sizes, colors, et cetera, that have to be incorporated, but we don't have specific standards for that. I know that we have a short amount of time here, so I'll just give you one other example where we've dealt with specific incorporation of technical standards into the accessibility rules.
For example, with the Video Relay Service, the FCC adopted technical specifications that must be followed for the interface between two or more video relay service providers, as well as between the VRS provider and the TRS numbering directory to ensure interoperability and seamless provision of service.
Another area concerns hearing aid compatibility where the FCC must ensure that wire line and wireless phones are compatible with hearing aids and cochlear implants. Congress there directed the FCC to determine compliance based on relevant technical standards developed through a public participation process, and in consultation with interested consumer stakeholders. So, standards developed by recognize standard setting bodies are incorporated by reference into the hearing aid compatibility rules, and a task force is currently assessing whether 100% of telephones will be hearing aid compliant.
In short, there are a lot of different approaches that we take if this area to try to balance disability access and the use of standards between providing certainty and not stifling innovation.
TIM SPRINGER: Love it. Sachin, tell us about the Access Board. What is happening? How is 508 going? How is all of that good stuff?
SACHIN DEV PAVITHRAN: Thank you, Tim. Before I get into my piece of the conversation, I do want to recognize Judy. I know Judy slipped in a bunch of leaving W3C real quick there, but I just want to make sure that we recognize your hard work over the last many decades.
JUDY BREWER: Thank you, Sachin. Thank you.
SACHIN DEV PAVITHRAN: It's definitely the work that you've done that has had a big impact in many of our lives. I speak for many of us that are disabled, it's important what you have done and I hope you will continue to do what you've been known to do.
JUDY BREWER: I'll still be around. Thank you so much for your kind words.
SACHIN DEV PAVITHRAN: So, I'm the Executive Director of Access Board in the role for about a year and a half now. It's so great to be at this conference, to meet many familiar faces, and to engage in conversations. Here at the Access Board, we are a small independent Federal agency, we work on various different accessibility standards. Our role is to define accessibility and then work on guidelines and standards that go along with the built environment, transportation, information, communication, technology.
Just to give a quick update on some of the work that we've been doing as of late is many of you might have heard of the AMPR that came out, an announcement or notice for public rulemaking on self service transaction machine, and that just came out two months ago about. We're looking for public comments, so please, I do encourage all of you to make your comments because this is the initial stage in this rulemaking process that we need input from all of you who this rule going to impact, so do make your comments on the AMPR self service transaction machine.
Section 508, if you haven't noticed, has been getting a lot of attention these days, both from Congress and also within the current Administration. The current Administration is taking Section 508 very seriously, where especially with the Executive Order that came out last year, there has been a lot of focus around what accessibility should look like, just in the entire Federal Government. I'm not just talking about digital accessibility; I'm talking about accessibility at large. But 508, definitely has had a spotlight in the last couple of months, and I appreciated the comments this morning in the earlier presentation by John, Stephanie, and I'm sorry I missed the name, Clark. I'm sorry, Clark.
So, the bill that's coming out, the bill that just got dropped about a month ago on web accessibility and apps, all of those are important conversations. They all are happening and 508 is equally as important, even though our refresh was three years ago in 2017 when the 508 last refresh took place, but there is still a lot of work to be done in the Federal space.
The problem is 508 is not enforceable. That's where we are still struggling when it comes to the conversation of what accessibility should look like in the Federal space. That is an ongoing conversation. How can we hold Federal agencies accountable. The accountability problem is the big problem that we are still struggling with, but I'm hopeful with the spotlight that we are having on 508 that that shift is going to happen and we will have more accountability on Federal agencies on making sure that their digital content is accessible.
Some of the other areas that we continue to work on is on our baseline testing. I know my colleague, Cathy Ying is here and is leading the effort along with our partners in GSA, and so we continue to work on our baseline testing program. Also, the webinars that we do every other month on 508, Tim Cregan my colleague over here as well, he, please do reach out to Cathy and Tim if you want to find out more about the baseline testing and also webinars that we offer.
Our role as the Access Board is to make sure that we're engaged in the conversation on accessibility. We try to stay on top of what is happening in accessibility in the broad space, not just here in the U.S. but as internationally. I'm excited that Susanna is here, because of course harmonizing our standards across the board is an important piece for us because we need to make sure that we are all talking and we are all on the same page when it comes to accessibility.
With that, I'm going to turn the time back over to you, Tim.
TIM SPRINGER: Love it. Susanna, what's going on in the EU? How are things going? How are things going from the regulatory perspective? We'd love to get an update.
SUSANNA LAURIN: That's a small question. Thank you. (Laughing). So, for those of you who are not thinking about EU legislation and accessibility regularly, we have had a couple of updates and laws coming up. The last few years have been exciting, procurement directive adding accessibility requirements in 2017 and then Web Accessibility Directive adopted in 2018 which covers public sector in all of EU Member States and now in 2019, the European Accessibility Act came out and that is going to be it's entering into force in 2025 so that is what everyone is now preparing for, and the European Accessibility Act covers certain products and services and moving away from just the public sector, which is big enough, but now we're also covering e commerce, banks, and computers, and some transportation and so on. It's a big thing and it's quite a complex legislation and that means that the standards going with that legislation is also becoming complex.
So from a standards perspective, standards are of course voluntary also in the EU, but there are something called mandated standards. So that's when the European Commission points to the European standardization organizations and say hey you guys, you need to work together to make sure that we have standards that are harmonized, which means that they are published in the official journal and act as presumed conformance to the legislation. So, you are welcome to try to become accessible in another way, but if you meet the requirements of the standard, then you know that you are kind of accessible and compliant.
So, the mandated standards cannot be global ones, so even though the EN301549 that I have been working with forever is based, the web part of that is based on WCAG, of course, so that's kind of the harmonization piece. But still to comply with the Web Accessibility Directive, WCAG 2.1 AA is not enough because we have several requirements that go beyond WCAG. So, the real presumed conformance is the annex A of EN301549 version 3.2.1, I'm sorry this is long. (Laughing).
So, we really need to talk to the U.S. to make sure that we harmonize as much as we can. But the accessibility standardization in the digital space in Europe is run by the three European standardization organizations, ETSI, CEN, CENELEC. The communications standards institute, the large part, you pay to play, so large organizations and players have a better say when it comes to voting and so on that everyone is welcome as long as you pay for it. The CEN is European Committee for Standardization, so how can that be the acronym? Ah ha the acronym is from the French, the Committee of (?). So that's why it becomes CEN. And then CENELEC which is the nicer one. Then we have standards that are used as presumed conformance and really, it's minimum requirements for the directives.
So that is now my job to heard these cats into working together with the standards. We have not less than eight standardization requests for the European Accessibility Act and I know that you in the U.S., the mandates are very popular and familiar for some reason, and people still talk about Mandate 376 and that was like many years ago, so the new Mandate is 587 but you don't need to remember that because that is kind of the call, the interesting numbers are the standards, the result of the call for action.
So, we need to develop three new standards, so standards on requirements of the accessibility of non digital information related to products, a standard on the support services related to products and services like help desks, call centers, technical support, relay service, even training services. And the third new standard to be developed is the requirements for interoperability of emergency communications and answering for the emergency communications by the public safety answering point, so that is your 911, and in Europe we just do 112 because of course we can't have the same. Anyway, it's the same idea, so that needs to be accessible and I think to me that is one of the most important pieces of this.
We also are supposed to update three existing standards, so the EN301549 accessibility of ICT products and service, the 17161 which is some I think less known in the U.S., design for all standards, so how to achieve accessibility by following a design for all approach in products, goods, and services, so that is just a way more of a procedural standard for extending the range of users, a good standard, so look into it not so difficult to read at all and no technical specifications. And then 17170 the built accessibility for the built environment. These three standards need to be updated.
And just to keep us busy, we are also going to revise two technical reports, and the one is TR101551, that's the guide line of use of accessibility award criteria suitable for public procurement because one of the really interesting things of the accessibility act also supports the procurement directive, so the procurement directive will be enforced and more kind of in focus and easier to enforce with the accessibility act.
And the last technical report is 101552, guidance for the application of conformity assessment to the accessibility requirements for public procurement of ICT products and services. So, we have quite a lot to do, and I don't know if we will follow up with problems and things afterwards, but there are some, (Laughing), there are some issues so I can't remember how much time I have. But so we have
TIM SPRINGER: If you have a segue, you have to go.
SUSANNA LAURIN: The challenge from the standardization standpoint, except making people agree and so on, is that the mandate comes out really late, and we only have until June 28th of June, 2025 to do all of this and that's supposed to be ready in time. And with this delay and also with the shortage of funding, I think that the standardization bodies will struggle to be ready in time to make the job done in time, and that means that the industry players who are developing hardware or really complex services, I mean they need the standard now and not just before the legislation enters into force. So, I think that is kind of a mismatching in timing that everyone comes to me and describes how difficult that is, and I know. (Laughing). We're doing our best. Yeah. That's where we are.
TIM SPRINGER: Perfect. So, we have about 25 minutes left, a little less than that. We're going to open things up for questions. I think this is one of these like you raise your hand and you get a microphone scenario, and then you can stand up and ask your question. While the microphones are getting ready to go, I have a question which I'm allowed to ask because, you know, facilitating here.
So, one of the most fascinating questions though is I'm always interested in it is, how does enforcement work in digital accessibility? And I appreciate I am asking you kind of a third rail question which is, on one end of the spectrum, we want to argue that this is a moral imperative that is an ethical requirement. On the other end of the spectrum in my 20 plus years in the industry, I have not seen material action initiated without a degree of threat of enforcement. And Sachin you mentioned this in your comments, like the lack of enforcement is a big problem with the 508. So, what do you think is the right role in enforcement and accessibility? And like, you know, obviously this is a, I don't expect a perfect factual answer to this question. Riffing on that but how do you think about that and balancing the innate desires versus the reality of there has to be a degree of enforcement? Sues.
DIANE BURSTEIN: If I could jump in on that, at the Federal Communications Commission we take complaints from consumers and in the Disability Rights Office in particular we do get complaints about inaccessibility of certain programs or products or so we will look into that and actually engage with the company to make sure that they, in fact, are following our guidelines and rules. And if they're not, there is another bureau at the FCC called the Enforcement Bureau and that's where they can head after they talk to the Disability Rights Office.
We have a lot of success, I think, in ensuring that the rules are adhered to by the companies that are regulated.
TIM SPRINGER: Love it. Any other thoughts on enforcement? I know I'm prompting.
SUSANNA LAURIN: So, I think we have shown with the Web Accessibility Directive that kind of three pillar approach that we have tried in Europe has been quite successful, so we do monitoring. Each Member State is doing monitoring of objects covered by the legislation so that's one pillar. The second pillar is the self declaration, so the public sector bodies in that case who are supposed to comply with the legislation, they need to declare their level of accessibility, and that seems to be that's good for the monitoring bodies and also good for end users who have for need to bang their head against the wall because they already know what is not accessible. But it's also really, really valuable because the organization behind, so the website owner, if you are going to declare your level of accessibility, you actually need to know your level of accessibility, so that has stirred a lot of activity in the public sector bodies.
And the third pillar is the one I like the most, kind of the bottom up approach, the right for users to provide feedback. We haven't really it's still kind of an untapped resource for expertise by the end users. It doesn't work as well in all Member States yet, but I'm sure it will. I really, we do see very good examples when the feedback loop is working in a good way, and that is it's for free consultation for the website owners, and they really get to know so much more when they communicate with the end users, so this is a step before a formal complaint. The feedback is just something that we need, and the website owner, and we don't need to fight and we can be nice to each other and give constructive feedback, and then I get help. And if I don't get what I want from the website they're also required to feed me with an alternative format within 14 days. If this wouldn't work, then I go to the next step and make a formal complaint, and then it becomes a legal issue. But if we can solve most of the problems on kind of speaking terms way, I think that is so rewarding. What we do see in the review of the Web Accessibility directive 90% of the public seconder bodies monitored like it being monitored. We don't have pushback. We have many of the member states specifically in the east said this will never work and we don't want to do this and this is impossible and you can't force us to do this, but now it's implemented and it actually works. I think that says something. The monitoring piece is something that I hope other parts of the world will take over. I mean we have done the world's biggest accessibility audit ever made, it's more than 10,000 pages that I mean are audited with the same monitoring methodology. It's quite extensive. And many of the websites are bad. Don't get me wrong. We didn't fix everything. Now we have a starting point and we can keep monitoring. That I think will really move things forward.
JUDY BREWER: If I can add on that, Tim. Okay. Yeah. W3C, Web Accessibility Initiative is sometimes perceived as making policy, and we're very conscious not to do that. But the people who participate directly in the working groups on developing updated versions such as WCAG 2.2 that will improve coverage in certain areas, we're very mindful that that we try to make it so it can be taken up and be useful in regulatory environments, and one of the things that I've found person personally fascinating over the years is watching what happens when this technical standard is taken up in different countries under different frameworks, different jurisdictions, and including in very, very creative ways., so it may be taken up, you know, as like a reference standard, do this if you can. Then over time people see that that's not really working, it's not giving people the accessibility that they need, and so it becomes kind of a stiff requirement to do this. But what we're starting to see now, I was reminded of in listening to the developments around the Sarbanes and Duckworth Bill because it's trying to create an ecosystem, and this is what we're starting to see in the other parts of the world also where there is a very mature dialogue about accessibility, such as in Europe. There is more comprehensive supports and requirements and some monitoring, and also just speaking from the perspective of having had a disability for many decades, most of the things that I've had a chance to do in my life, I wouldn't have been able to get my advanced education or hold the jobs that I have or to be able to help pull the community together without not only requirements but people watching to see if those requirements are filled in. I think digital accessibility is sort of learning that on its own right now. How do we come up with the right kinds of implementation supports and monitoring systems so that we actually achieve what we intended to do when we wrote the narrow technical standards.
SACHIN DEV PAVITHRAN: The one thing I would add is the way 508 has been working here in the U.S., the self monitoring, you know, it's 508 that has been in the books for a couple of decades now, and we still are finding issues when it comes to how agencies share what is accessible and what they're doing about 508 implementation within the agency.
Now, some agencies are performing better than other agencies. Some have better 508 programs within the agencies. The problem is a lot of times that you don't know how it's being implemented agency wide. The procurement is the biggest barriers is what are agencies doing when they come to procure new products.
The issue about enforcement, we don't know if that will ever happen or if it happens what that will look like also. I think the way it's being done in the last couple of decades, it's obviously not working. We're still having major issues when it comes to digital accessibility barriers in the Federal space.
You know, as a blind person, I still encounter that quite often when just the different things that I have to do as the Executive Director when I have to interact on different systems within the Federal space. So, we can just hope people will catch on, we can't just hope without really holding departments or agencies accountable. What kind of monitoring, you know, what kind of monitoring needs to happen, what kind of information that needs to be reported, and how we require this information that's being reported, all of those could change the dialogue, but just leaving it as status quo is not helping.
TIM SPRINGER: Love it. Let's open things up for questions. If you have a question, go ahead and raise your hand and we'll come find you. Let's go right there in front. Then I'd say just do a quick do a quick introduction. Tell us your sign of the Zodiac if you're so inclined and then if you have a question for a specific panelist, fire to that person or if not just in general, go for it.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Good morning. Bianca Prins Global Head of accessibility at ING and one of the speakers from yesterday. I have a question for Susanna, and one of the key things which I noticed when I was involved in legislative writing for the EAA in the Netherlands is that the government who is currently working on the legislation has no idea on the impact, so for example, what they did in the Netherlands is they broke up the law in several aspects. For us as a bank, it means we have banking regulations, we have e commerce regulations, we have digital accessibility, we have communications regulations. If you ask, for example, security for payments, we have a digital system for that. Nobody knows if it falls under the banking legislation or if it falls under the digital accessibility legislation. That messy part in the legislation is something which surely needs to be addressed because otherwise banks but as other businesses could get in huge trouble when it comes to reputation, because if nobody knows who is responsible and there is a complaint, and for example you're not able to fix it because of other regulations around (?) and security and payments, then you already have a potential claim and bounded by other regulations, and nobody really knows how that works. I think that should be really addressed shortly, because otherwise if 2025 is coming fast, and if we don't know yet, how can we write working legislation.
SUSANNA LAURIN: Yeah. How to answer to that. The idea of directives aren't the same as one size fits all in the states. The idea of the directive is we have a minimum, we say this is the way we want the member states to work and we really need accessibility and we point to the standards and so on, but then they need to be transposed, which means kind of localized so each member state needs to make sure that it works with their local legislation. I'm not an expert in banking regulations in the Netherlands, so I don't know how all of these work, unfortunately, but it would be interesting to look into. But the idea is that the government of the Netherlands should make sure that the directive kind of interacts in a good way with the local or other national laws, and that goes for banking, transportation, e commerce, for all of these products and services that are covered by the directive.
So, that is why the Commission is kind of leaving it up to the member states to make sure that it doesn't come in contact with other laws and so on, and I realize that banking that the banks are already regulated in many ways, but it's not really it's not really the role of the standardization body or the Commission to solve that at the national level. So that must be solved by the governments of the Netherlands. I'm are a little bit surprised you say they have no clue because Netherlands is one of the countries usually that has been quite good at accessibility and I think they're doing a very good job when it comes to Web Accessibility Directive and one of the countries that are kind of top five or so, I would say, when it comes to how they work with accessibility and really encouraging not only measuring kind of compliance statuses, but really trying to make sure that they motivate and move things forward. So, but happy to reach out to you and see what we can do, if there is anything that we can do from my end to support that, I would be more than happy. The banks are an important piece of the accessibility act, of course.
Just as a quick follow up on this, one of the things that I love about the system involved at W3C for building technical standards. This is Judy Brewer).
There is now a mandated horizontal review for every technical standard. I mentioned the one earlier from accessible, but there is another review going on from security and from privacy and from internationalization, so every standard that we come out with has to be reviewed in these intersecting ways, and that's where it gets really interesting because the question from our questioner there is very true. There are often collisions unless you spend the time to look at how these different aspects intersect with each other, but we've created a space where you can do that. We actually really love it when people are interested in those intersections and come and be part of those reviews because then you get to learn be about how it works with security, how it works with privacy. There is space for that, there is time for that.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Good morning. My name is Mohammad L, G3ict Director for building and capacity. Diane talked about public participation, I would like to hear more about this, your experience with public participation, I know you engage policymakers and other stakeholders, but I'm mainly interested in hearing more about your work with organizations of persons with disabilities.
I know this is mainly in the U.S. and we heard about it in previous sessions, but I would like to also hear from Susanna and from Judy, the W3C, whether you and I mean you just talked about policymakers as well, but how can we make sure that the voices of persons with disabilities are heard at the W3C level? And how can we enhance that? Thank you.
DIANE BURSTEIN: Sure. This is Diane. Thanks for that question. I think in the Disability Rights Office in the FCC, in general, we're very interested in hearing from members of the public and from organizations representing people with disabilities. And we do that in several ways. One way is through the Disability Advisory Committee that I mentioned. That is an organization that's been established for I guess about the last eight years or maybe even longer, and in fact we're taking applications for the next round of the Disability Advisory Committee and there we have members of the disability community as well as stakeholders from industry and from the Access Board and elsewhere that really talk about a lot of these kinds of issues and try to work out some feedback that the FCC can consider in its recommendations for how to move forward in various areas to enhance accessibility.
That's in addition to the outlet that I mentioned before in term of the complaints that the Disability Rights Office takes from members of the public where we hear directory from them. We have an American Sign Language line where people can call and speak to someone using ASL. We also have meeting and inquires where members of the public are invited to submit comments. All of those methods as well as just calling up and setting up a meeting with us are ways that we really engage with members of the public because that's a very important part of our mission.
JUDY BREWER: At W3C, there are many different ways to participate, and all of our work is done in public. People can become member organizations and then you can represent your organization. People can become invited experts. You can at any point look at documents that are in development and offer comments on that. Sometimes there is specific calls for comments for wide review and so forth. But at the bottom of most of our web pages, there is an opportunity for feedback there as well.
If you find that resource on the WAI home page, the WAI home page, what we're working on that can lead you to the current work that we're doing where your comments might be most relevant. But we only thrive by your participation and we're trying to continue to broaden the diversity of people at the table giving feedback, so please engage be and thank you for asking that question.
TIM SPRINGER: For what it's worth the FCC is a case study and great engagement in the community. Props to the organization. One thing to think about too particularly here in the U.S., there is a very boring process that the government uses to make regulations, and you heard us refer to it ARPRP, advanced notice of proposed rulemaking, ANPRM, those particular things matter and, particularly, if you want to have your voice heard and how the government implements. Do participate in that because it's profoundly impactful.
SACHIN DEV PAVITHRAN: This is Sachin. I just want to echo what Tim just said because that process is probably the best way for anyone to participate so the AMPR that I mentioned about the self service transaction machine is a prime example. We need to hear from all of you about that particular rulemaking process, so that proposed rulemaking, that's happening right now. I think the public comment period is open for another 30 days or so. We need to hear from all of you.
There are other ways also that we engage at the Access Board. We try to hold public hearings when topics of interest do come up so we have a better understanding when we are going through the process of what to consider. So, the public comment for the rulemaking is not the only thing that we look at. When we have those kind of hearings, more so we're doing virtually now, do participate in those so that informs our regulatory process as well.
TIM SPRINGER: Question in the back?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Good morning. Gary Moore National Cancer Institute U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Section 508 Coordinator. That's my time. (Laughing).
Rules are great. Policies are great. Laws are great. But there is no compliance, no enforcement, no communication. The federal government has clearly gotten the message that 508 is optional and voluntary and not mandatory. I got a request yesterday from a long time employee of how do I make my Word documents accessible? We're 21 years into this. We have no complaint process. EEO will not take 508 complaints. OCR is selective and then they sit on them for years. Employees are pretty apathetic and fed up, and employees are disabilities, employees responsible to implement accessible technology, when our management communicates actively or affirmative by commission or omission, that it's an option. If we can't have our monkey pox videos captioned, there is a real serious problem. June 21st, 2021, Section 508 went into effect. We're still in June 21, 2021. Word documents, I mean this is basic stuff. Contract language, it's haphazard, it's random. Why bother? If agencies aren't told, every day of the week oops I'm sorry about that we're told about DEI, DEI not for people with disabilities, and we're told it doesn't include people with disabilities. We've yet to hear about the Executive Order from last summer on accessibility, which has disability, the word disability 29 times in it. But neither the HHS or the subdivisions have mentioned it.
If we're being affirmatively told, basically, not just by silence but by omission, it's okay, don't worry about it, and we're not going to take your complaints. Where are we? I've never known not to be blind and I guess I'm still blind. But our employees are apathetic now because why bother?
TIM SPRINGER: I'm not sure if there is a question there but (Laughing). Where are we? What do we do? Sachin, if you want to comment on that? We're close to time.
SACHIN DEV PAVITHRAN: I agree with everything that was just said. It is a problem. 20 years and we're still talking about how to implement 508 in many agencies, and there are some agencies, some folks in leadership, the question is what is 508? It's this surprise thing that has just kind of popped up because the Executive Order. It's great that the Executive Order is putting the spotlight on accessibility, but you know, for those who don't know Executive Orders, it's not a permanent thing. That spotlight for accessibility might shift depending upon the administration, so we need something more affirmative that really states 508 is great is there is a way to hold agencies accountable.
I'm going to reflect for a moment with no pretenses of having answers to that impassioned statement. I was thinking when Larry Scaven first developed the concept for Section 508, partly he saw what was coming with the graphical user interface and at the time the dominant user interface was DOS and he was like oh, my gosh, we're going to be losing our jobs those working comfortably in computers when it switches to graphical user interface. He and others came up with this procurement approach which has been looked at with interest around the world and replicated in some places, but technology has evolved by such leaps and bounds.
One of the things at that I'm trying to turn my personal attention to is barriers to utilization of any kinds of technology by people with disabilities, and underutilization of advanced technologies by people with disabilities. But you know, when I remember Larry's early thoughts on this and I watched the evolution of 508, it's a huge challenge because technology I mean we've become a very technological society, and trying to get people who aren't familiar or maybe even uncomfortable with disability to be able to know when to do the right thing, it's a huge endeavor and, no, we're not there yet. Thank you to everybody in this room who is working so hard on trying to get it to work; and yes, we need new approaches that makes it happen better, and let's see what evolves next.
TIM SPRINGER: Thanks to everyone for sticking with us today.
Thank you to our panel.
NICHOLAS GENNARO SCIASCI: Thank you, Tim. Thank you esteemed panelists. At this time the networking break in the showcase area and reconvene at 11:00 a.m. in the Grand Ballroom for Meet the Leaders fireside chat with Rebecca Bond, Department of Justice, Moderated by Lainey Feingold. Thank you.
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