US Access Board Welcomes the Launch of the New Buy ICT for All Portal
Posted on June 22, 2017
The U.S. Access Board congratulates G3ict- the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs on the launch of the new Buy ICT for All web portal (www.buyict4all.org) addressing the public procurement of accessible information and communication technology (ICT). We believe that this portal will become an important source of information on best practices, policies and guidance on accessible public procurements of information and communication technology. We thank G3ict for the invitation to contribute this guest blog post.
The U.S. Access Board is a federal agency that promotes equality for people with disabilities through leadership in accessible design and the development of accessibility guidelines and standards for the built environment, transportation, communication, medical diagnostic equipment, and information technology.
In looking to the future, we are excited that accessibility is becoming more the day-to-day reality for individuals all over the world. At this moment in time, there is widespread formal concurrence that the WCAG 2.0 Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements are a good and sufficient baseline for digital accessibility. Never before have we had such far-ranging agreement about what it means for content to be accessible.
It has been a long journey. The “Refresh” of the Section 508 Standards and the Section 255 Guidelines started with the convening of the TEITAC advisory committee, an international, collaborative process among 41 stakeholder groups, including members of the IT hardware and software industries, academia, NGOs supporting the rights of individuals with disabilities, accessibility consultants, and representatives from Japan, Canada, Australia and the European Union. In its final report, the advisory committee recommended the adoption of the W3C standard for web content, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0). In our Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in 2011, we proposed to expand the application of the WCAG 2.0 Level AA to documents and software interfaces. That approach, radical at the time, was reviewed and validated by the WCAG2ICT Task Force during 2012 and 2013, and then followed in the European Accessibility Standard EN 301 549 in 2014. Our proposed rule in 2015 incorporated WCAG 2.0 by reference into 508. As with the 2011 ANPRM, we applied WCAG to documents and software interfaces, as well as web content. Our final rule, published this year, follows the same approach, but with additional clarification and refinement made possible from the substantial and constructive public comment.
We believe that the application of these harmonized standards in the procurement of ICT will result in greater availability of accessible ICT worldwide. From accessible websites, to smartphone applications, to wearable haptic technology — addressing the needs of individuals with disabilities is more widespread and common practice than ever. It is heartening to see market innovations resulting in solutions that include all people, of varying abilities.
We welcome the launch of this portal as another example of the inclusion of all in the digital world. We believe that a common approach to accessible procurements will promote more business opportunities in international marketplaces, and will promote the rights of individuals with disabilities worldwide.