February 7, 2018

ICT Refresh and Document Accessibility

Dennis Quon | Document Accessibility Solutions Development Manager
document accessibility software products

On January 18th, 2018, the ICT Refresh came into full effect for anyone doing business with or receiving funding from the US Federal Government.  The refresh covers and addresses changes to Information and Communications Technologies such as electronic documents, web sites that include mobile content as well as accessible interfaces. This was a long awaited refresh that covers both Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

The refresh addresses the rapid evolution in technology specific to ICT.  Essentially, a lot of things have changed since the last update in information and communications technologies.  Smart phones, for example, as well as mobile websites really did not exist when the last refresh was completed. We are all aware of their role in society and in the accessibility space!

The ICT Refresh is a broad ranging update. It affects all facets of government procurement as it relates to ICT, and as such will complement and expand accessibility for all.  The US government is the largest procurer of goods worldwide and in the US, and it also employs a significant number of individuals who have vision, cognitive and hearing impairments.  Anyone wanting to do business with the US government will need to comply to ensure that internal and public facing content is accessible.

The ICT Refresh primarily focuses on electronic documents and websites.  The minimum standard in order to meet the Section 508 criteria is WCAG 2.0 Level AA.  You have a choice to use the WCAG guideline or more stringent definitions such as the PDF/UA standard and techniques, or even HHMS standards.  Whatever your organizational plan, you need to consider the following:

  1. Existing documents and websites that predate the January 18th, 2018 date are grandfathered under the ICT Refresh and only need to be in scope when changes are made or if those sites or documents are used or visited regularly.
  2. You should consider doing an assessment of all your documents, including those behind firewalls, on websites, and in archives.
  3. You should consider how to attack document remediation. Many organizations consider training everyone for accessibility tagging, while others send documents to a central accessibility department that at times might not have sufficient bandwidth.  You might consider Auto Tagging tools that require post tagging touch up.  This eliminates costly across the board training or the potential bottleneck of an accessibility department with an endless amount of remediation.  Also consider if you can, using on-line cloud remediation services.
  4. For high volume system output documents, such transaction documents or personalized content, consider templated tools to make these documents accessible.
  5. Use corporate templates in MS-Word or MS PowerPoint that pre-tag the MS-Office Templates to reduce post remediation.
  6. Take time to understand your testing criteria and what tools are being used. Not all tools on all platforms work.  Talk to an accessibility expert who understands PDF, test criteria and assistive technology
  7. Most important -seek training and have a plan!

CrawfordTech offers the most comprehensive portfolio of services and solutions for accessible documents in the industry, ranging from licensed products for transactional documents such as Accessibility Express, PRO Transform Plus for Accessible PDF and PRO Transform Plus for Accessible HTML5; to a unique solution that makes paper documents accessible,  Voiceye Maker for Operations Express; to our recently released Auto Tagger for Accessibility for business and marketing documents. We maintain secure service bureaus in the U.S. and Canada that provide production of braille, large print, audio, e-text, and transcription to Accessible PDF or Accessible HTML5 in multiple languages. Our ground-breaking MasterONE architecture supports all formats from a single set-up, saving both time and money.