Thursday May 22, 2008

Recognition where it is due: Sun's award to Andi Snow-Weaver

I've had the distinct pleasure of working with a tremendous set of colleagues on the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee. One colleague in particular - Andi Snow-Weaver of IBM - had the unenviable task of running the largest of the TEITAC subcommittees, as well as spearheading our harmonization effort with other global accessibility standards. It was a particularly thankless job that she did incredibly well. At least, it was a thankless job until now...

Earlier this month my company recognized Andi with our first ever "Innovation in Government Technology Awards", at a ceremony in Washington DC. Scott McNealy himself helped give out the awards. Details can be found in Bill Vass' blog about it (Bill is the President & COO of Sun Microsystems Federal, Inc.). And today IBM published a web article about the award.

As someone who has worked many many years on accessibility - and more recently a few years on standards - I can attest to how rare it is to receive recognition for either standards work or accessibility work. This makes an award for work on accessibility standards that much more special and noteworthy. Congratulations Andi on a tremendous job, very well done!

[I must admit I had a small hand in nominating Andi - after the Mr. Happy incident, it was the least I could do!]

Sunday Apr 06, 2008

Presentation of the TEITAC report to the U.S. Access Board

Last Thursday, April 3rd, the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee (or TEITAC for short) presented their final report to the United States Access Board. It was the culmination of more than 18 months of very hard work by a very talented group of 41 representatives and their alternates who were representing their respective companies, disability organizations, government agencies, and countries.

As one of the, shall we say "more vigorous", members of TEITAC, I find myself with a whole constellation of emotions having reached this important milestone and the formal conclusion of my TEITAC duties. I am incredibly proud of the report we produced. We tackled many very challenging issues, and reached consensus on a large subset of them. The process was intellectually stimulating - and at times wearing - but always very engaging and valuable. I got to work with a number of folks I have long respected, and I got to meet and work with many new-to-me folks who brought a tremendous amount of energy and thought to the process. I look forward to continuing to work both sets of colleagues in the years to come.

While the 41 folks reached consensus on the majority of the issues, there were about a dozen "minority reports" that were contributed from members - underscoring the importance of language that did reach consensus, as well as arguing alternately for or against language that is included but which did not reach consensus. These "minority reports" are uniformly thoughtful, and also worth reading. Reports were contributed from: ATIA; from Adobe; from CITA and The Telecommunications Industry Association; from IBM; from the Information Technology industry Council; from Microsoft; from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers and Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs; from Panasonic; from Sun Microsystems; from the Trace R&D Center; and from the Web Accessibility Initiative of the W3C.

The next step in the process is for the U.S. Access Board to digest this volume of material, and produce their own draft set of provisions, and to produce a regulatory assessment of what such a draft would entail. These will then be molded into their Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Published in the Federal Register, these proposed rules will be open to public comment for a period of some weeks. After reviewing comments, the U.S. Access Board will issue their Final Rule, which will specify the standards for accessibility under which procurement of Electronic and Information Technology by the U.S. Federal Government shall take place. They shall also specify the guidelines for accessibility that apply to telecommunications products shall be subject to in the United States. Like many folks, I eagerly await the first formal indications of the Access Boards thoughts, which may expect to first appear on the refresh website.

Wednesday Feb 27, 2008

In the 'TEITAC' home stretch!

With an odd mixture of joy, relief, and maybe a little bit of sadness (but mostly relief), I read that "The Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee (TEITAC) will deliver its report to the Board on April 3, 2008" in this web news release on the webiste of the U.S. Access Board. This release notes that:

The Committee’s report will be the basis for the Board’s first update of the Section 508 standards since their original publication in 2000. The Board will review the Committee recommendations and issue an update proposal which will be available for public comment.

Along with my Sun colleague (and TEITAC Editorial Working Group member) Michele Budris, and colleagues from 40 other companies organizations, I have been working on the Update of the Section 508 Standards and the Telecommunications Act Guidelines since the first meeting in October 2006. During 26 days of face to face plenary meetings, 38 hours of teleconference plenary meetings, regular weekly meetings among 8 subcommittees (which were open to public participation) - not to mention meetings of more than a dozen ad-hoc task groups) - we have largely reached consensus on the draft of our recommendations that we will be delivering to the Access Board in early April. That meeting will be held at the Grand Hayatt in downtown Washington DC, followed by what is rumored to be a black tie reception. But before we all get to dress up, we have to finish the final stretch (a last 14 hours of meetings).

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Peter Korn

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