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|Karen L. Braitmayer Access Board Chair|
|David M. Capozzi Access Board Executive Director|
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 which requires access to programs and activities that are funded by federal agencies and to federal employment. The law also created the U.S. Access Board to ensure access to the built environment.
Specifically, the Board was established to enforce a law passed a few years earlier, the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) of 1968. One of the first laws on the books to address accessibility, the ABA aimed to make the federal government a model of accessibility by requiring access to all facilities designed, built, altered, or leased with federal funds.
In passing the Rehabilitation Act, Congress determined that the ABA needed better enforcement. As originally written, the ABA effectively left compliance up to each agency with little oversight. Further, comprehensive standards for accessibility were not available at that time. It was clear that a central agency was needed to both establish and enforce accessibility requirements for facilities covered by the law.
According to Access Board Chair Karen L. Braitmayer, FAIA, "In creating the Access Board, Congress recognized that you can't guarantee accessibility until you clearly spell out how it is to be achieved and have a process in place to make sure that those requirements are met." In fact, the lessons learned from the ABA and the Rehabilitation Act would not be lost on later laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
"With accessibility, it's fair to say that the Federal government essentially started in its own backyard," states David M. Capozzi, the Access Board's Executive Director. "The Rehabilitation Act and the Architectural Barriers Act helped lay the groundwork for the landmark ADA and coverage of accessibility beyond the federal realm."
To this day, the Board continues to do what it was created to do. It develops and keeps up-to-date the accessibility requirements of the ABA and enforces compliance with them through the investigation of complaints. If a member of the public is concerned about access to a facility that may have received federal funding, it can file a complaint with the Board. The Board then opens an investigation to determine whether the facility is covered by the ABA and, if so, whether it meets the applicable standards. If a covered facility is not in compliance, the Board will pursue a corrective action plan and monitor the case until all necessary work is completed. The Board typically opens about 50 to 100 cases each year, and has ensured access to all types of facilities covered by the ABA, including post offices, national parks, and social security offices, among others. Since the ABA also applies to non-Federal buildings that are federally funded, the Board's casework has encompassed many other types of facilities as well, such as schools, transit stations, local courthouses and jails, and public housing.
The Board's mission has grown tremendously over the years under later laws. Its work developing and maintaining accessibility requirements is no longer limited to buildings covered by the ABA. Now, the Board is responsible for design requirements for facilities and transportation systems covered by the ADA, electronic and information technology in the federal sector under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, telecommunications equipment subject to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and, most recently, medical diagnostic equipment under Section 510 of the Rehabilitation Act. Through this work, the Board has become a leading resource on accessible design.
"The Board has eagerly accepted the responsibility to address access in new and unchartered areas," says Capozzi. "The Board maintains a very active and varied rulemaking agenda. In fact, just today, the Board is releasing new guidelines that address access to federal outdoor recreation sites." The Board is also developing new guidelines or standards for public rights-of-ways, shared use paths, passenger vessels, emergency housing, classroom acoustics, and medical diagnostic equipment. Having previously developed and updated its guidelines for facilities under the ABA and ADA, the Board is currently refreshing its ADA guidelines for transportation vehicles and its standards and guidelines for information and communication technologies covered by section 508 and the Telecommunications Act. In addition to rulemaking, the Board provides technical assistance and training to the public on its guidelines and standards on a regular basis and funds research on accessible design.
"Often people ask which department the Board is part of, but in fact it is an independent federal agency with authority to report directly to the President and Congress," says Braitmayer. Its governing Board includes 13 members from the public appointed by the President to four-year terms. Over the years, almost 100 people have served on the Board as public members. Since the Board also coordinates policy government-wide relating to accessible design, 12 federal departments are represented on the Board as well.
US Access Board
From the blog by Bill Peace, "Bad Cripple":
"The comment left today prompted me to write. These two diatribes accusing me of being: "self righteous", full of "bull shit", and a "piece of shit author". I should also be "ashamed" of myself as I am a "self loathing cry baby".While the language leaves much to be desired I do not think the views expressed are far from the norm. Disability is grossly misunderstood. Much of what has been taught in secondary schools is badly antiquated. The fact is the vast majority of the population firmly believes disability is a medical problem. A few may be aware that people with a disability have been discriminated against but that problem was solved a long time ago with a law that insures all new buildings are accessible. At no point does civil rights enter the equation. People with a disability it is thought are "suffering"...My anger and frustration does not stem from paralysis but rather a society that is knowingly reluctant to make the most basic so called reasonable accommodations. This is the leap in logic the majority of Americans have failed to make: disability is not about a given physical deficit. disability is about social, economic, and political exclusion."
IBM and Carnegie Mellon University To Create Smarter Infrastructure Lab
Collaborative Research Will Aim To Make Cities and Businesses More Intelligent
PITTSBURGH--IBM (NYSE: IBM) and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) announced today that they will create a collaborative research lab at the university to undertake research and create technologies to help cities, governments and industries worldwide develop smarter infrastructures.
The new lab is part of the Pennsylvania Smart Infrastructure Incubator (PSII) and will be located within theDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering on the CMU campus in Pittsburgh, PA. The (PSII) is a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania economic development initiative to create an incubator for advanced infrastructure technology in partnership with industry and the state. The lab is planned to be operational in the fall of 2010.
The IBM Smarter Infrastructure Lab at Carnegie Mellon University will develop technologies that are consistent with IBM's Smarter Planet initiative, IBM's offerings in Business Analytics and Optimization, and CMU's work within itsCenter for Sensed Critical Infrastructure Research. The new lab will be a focal point and catalyst for collaboration with like-minded research colleagues from IBM Research and across CMU including their engineering, architecture, public policy and business schools. It will also be an important resource at Carnegie Mellon University to educate and train future scientists and engineers to build smarter cities.
At the lab, researchers will collect and analyze massive amounts of data about the physical condition and energy efficiency of buildings, water pipelines and other infrastructure on which governments, businesses and societies depend. One of the research initiatives the lab will undertake is to explore physical infrastructures with innovative digital sensor networks that will produce large amounts of new data that will be acquired in real-time and integrated with advanced analytical tools. Such analysis will be directed to detect patterns, understand exposure to risks, and help predict outcomes of management and operational decisions with greater certainty.
"At Carnegie Mellon, we've been working for a number of years on interdisciplinary research to help better manage critical infrastructure using advanced technologies. Our goal has been to deploy a variety of sensors to collect significant amounts of new data that can be analyzed and turned into actionable information so that people who build, maintain or manage infrastructure can do so in a more efficient and cost effective manner," said James H. Garrett, Jr., the Thomas Lord professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. "IBM's much appreciated support will help establish a new, state-of-the-art lab where we will be able to showcase research and technology development on our Pittsburgh campus. In addition to supporting us with technology and analytical tools, our collaboration with IBM will also enable highly valuable interactions with IBM researchers worldwide in this domain."
Government agencies at the municipal, city, state and federal level along with businesses from diverse industry sectors will be invited to partner with the lab. Some of these partners will make data from their diverse infrastructures available to the lab while others may provide complementary technologies or support additional research activity. The lab will also be integrated with a new Collaboration and Distance Learning Center to be located in CMU's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, where leaders can meet -- either physically or virtually -- to learn how smarter infrastructures can make them more competitive.
"Making the infrastructure of our cities, communities, and industries more instrumented, interconnected and intelligent can make it more sustainable from both an economic and an environmental perspective," said Wayne Balta, vice president, corporate environmental affairs and product safety, IBM. "With Carnegie Mellon University's renowned reputation in engineering and IBM's leadership regarding a Smarter Planet and business analytics, this new lab can drive innovation and develop new technologies to help leaders worldwide optimize their use of finite resources."
Building a new home in a kid-friendly neighborhood wasn't the only priority for Julie Brocklehurst and Andrew Boland. In fact, their entire house had to be custom kid friendly. With their 8-year-old son, Brennen, in a wheelchair, they needed to design a functional, comfortable space that would work well for him for years to come.
Working with Carter Home Designs and an occupational therapist from Janeway Children's Health and Rehabilitation Centre, the couple created a smart open-concept home tailored to the family, from a playroom basement that is accessible from the outside to wider hallways and other amenities.
A special section from Ability magazine on the market potential of people with disabilities.
Tips for Making Facebook Posts Accessible
For General Account Information
Ensure your website address is listed in the About section of your Timeline/Page in order to provide an easy point of entry to more information.
Include other ways to contact your organization, such as your 800 number, an online "Contact Us" form, or general contact email address for more information.
For Photos, Video, Audio
Always provide a link back to a .gov page that hosts a copy of the photo, video, or audio with full caption/transcript.
After posting the photo, video, or audio, immediately post a comment that directs users to the full caption or the full transcript.
If you have a YouTube channel, upload your video to your channel and make sure you enable closed-captions (you'll want to upload your own transcript to make sure the captions are accurate). Then post a link to your YouTube video as your status update, rather than uploading the video into Facebook. This will ensure that visitors will be taken to your accessible version on YouTube.
For Composing Status Updates
Facebook provides ample space that allows you to spell out acronyms. Spell out the first instance of the acronym and add the acronym in parentheses after (e.g., U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)). This is especially helpful for those using screen readers, because after the name is heard the acronym is spelled out, and the user will associate the sound of the acronym with the full name.
For General Account Information
Put your 800 number in your bio line.
If you don't have a number, put a link to your accessible "Contact Us" form.
If you don't have a "Contact Us" form, put an email link to someone who can provide help for those with questions.
For Photos, Video, and Audio
Put the following prefixes before tweets that have photos, videos, or audio. This allows people using screen readers to know what to expect before it's read out loud. The uppercase formats are for further clarity to sighted users.
Link back to the page that has a copy of the photo, video, or audio with full caption/transcript.
Make your tweet serve as a descriptive caption so it has context for the item and then link back to your .gov for full accessibility.
For Displaying Tweets
Use the Twitter API or Embedded Timelines feature to display your agency's tweets on your .gov site.
Add a link in your bio, or occasionally tweet that you have an accessible format of your tweets at [provide link].
For Composing Tweets
Try to place any hashtags or @mentions at the end of the tweet. This allows a screen reader to voice the main content of the tweet more clearly in the beginning, and saving the service-specific speak for the end (the parts that sound confusing).
- If possible, avoid using unfamiliar acronyms that would sound strange if read by a screen reader. If space allows, try to spell out the acronyms instead or use a different way to convey the information.
- If the acronym is well-known and sounds the same when we speak as it's intended to sound (e.g., NASA), you don't need to spell out "National Aeronautics and Space Administration".
- Use "CamelCase" for multiple words for hashtags; that is, capitalize the first letters of compound words (use #SocialGov not #socialgov).
- If possible, use the audio feature on your phone to listen to your tweet prior to distribution so you know now your message would be conveyed to a hearing-impaired person.
Produced in 1978 by the Berkeley, California Center for Independent Living to illustrate the cross-disability civil rights philosophy for the federally funded Section 504 consumer trainings being conducted by the legal program of CIL, the Disability Law Resource Center (DLRC).
Here are a few things you can do with a wheelchair (and a good helmet).