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.