In recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) hosted the fifth annual federal Interagency Accessibility Forum (IAAF) on October 9, 2018. The U.S. Chief Information Officers Council Accessibility Community of Practice (CIOC ACoP) sponsored the forum, which mirrored this year’s NDEAM theme of “Empowerment Through Accessibility.”
Federal agency representatives learned about federal accessibility policies and how they can adapt Section 508 standards to prioritize IT accessibility. Attendees had the opportunity to share information, compare products and discuss the challenges faced in today’s digital world.
The GSA co-host, John Sullivan, Director of GSA’s Government-wide IT Accessibility Program, set the stage for this year’s theme of empowerment with inspiring testimonies of how accessibility paves the path to inclusion. He spoke to key FY19 priorities for the federal accessibility community, including:
- Ensuring accessibility requirements are included in agency solicitations;
- Reducing website accessibility errors; and
- Addressing the revised Section 508 requirements for internal agency communications.
The HUD co-host, William Lynch, Assistant General Counsel, Fair Housing Compliance Division, opened with an overview of workforce empowerment priorities, and invited participants to meet with speakers and the forum’s 27 exhibitors.
Executive Director of the U.S. Access Board, David Capozzi, detailed the history of accessible technology, how it has improved to meet the needs of people with disabilities, and how technology plays an expanded role in today’s accessibility efforts. He then introduced the keynote speaker, Judy Brewer.
Judy is Director of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and she gave the opening keynote address, discussing progress on the path to an accessible digital future. She described recent advances in accessibility guidelines for web and mobile, including for people with low vision and cognitive disabilities, and improved resources for managers, developers, and testers. She offered a glimpse at upcoming changes to how accessibility will be addressed in the technology field, including approaches that could create breakthroughs in digital accessibility. Judy also discussed accessibility conformance testing, advanced guidelines and support, and guidance for technologies that are converging onto the Web.
The morning session wrapped up with a panel discussion on “America’s Workforce: Empowering All.” The panel answered questions on finding, hiring and optimizing personnel assets to increase agency productivity.
During lunch, participants visited with many of the 27 exhibitors showcasing their products and services. In the afternoon, subject matter experts who were on the breakout session panels addressed:
- Accessibility Program Maturity and Metrics,
- Accessibility in the Acquisition Lifecycle, and
- Accessibility in the Development Lifecycle.
Eve Hill, Partner at Brown, Goldstein & Levy, and a disability rights attorney, gave the event’s closing keynote. Ms. Hill spoke on “Empowerment Through Accessibility,” and discussed the role of and challenges with, technology for accessibility. GSA and HUD’s partnership in hosting this year’s forum supports NDEAM in celebrating the contributions of workers with disabilities, and educating people about the value of a workforce inclusive of all skills and talents.