Earlier this month, I attended the Interagency Accessibility Forum Conference in Washington D.C. The well-attended event brought together accessibility experts from across the federal sphere, experienced professionals and specialist vendors.
The theme, “Ensuring Accessibility is a Business Imperative,” was frequently highlighted across the many excellent keynote speeches, talks and discussions. While the conference was going on, the Supreme Court announced its decision to not hear a case brought before it by a pizza company regarding whether its website would have to be accessible or not. Essentially, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s decision as law that the website of a pizza company must be accessible. This was met with much applause from the attendees at the conference. One of the conference speakers stated that denying access to services is an infringement upon an individual’s civil rights. Legislation is moving to endorse this viewpoint.
Aside from the talks about the legal requirements with regards to accessibility, there were many exciting technical developments which were discussed. Delivering solutions via Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have long been a hope within the accessibility community. These include trends in AI to utilize existing features in buildings’ construction as navigation points to assist those with vision impairments. Implementing a cost-effective solution requires using modern thermostats within buildings that already have internet capability as part of implementing IoT (Internet of Things).
The conference also featured a useful panel on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Trusted Tester Program, which has now been updated to include WCAG 2.1 principles. Many Artemis developers have the DHS Trusted Tester certification. Another government agency, the Social Security Administration, has also developed a tool for evaluating website accessibility called “Andi” (Accessible Name and Description Inspector) that is available as a free plugin. In addition, Federal staff chaired a discussion on implementing the web requirements of the 21st Century IDEA Act with the focus being on accessibility. Those attending the breakout session were fortunate to hear the experience and knowledge from some of the foremost federal accessibility experts. They promoted using the US Web Design System, which is intended to make it easier to create accessible and mobile-friendly government websites.
The Forum was well-worth attending, and it is exciting to see that the Federal world is continuing to take accessibility seriously and as a priority. I have been attending the Conference for the last few years and am pleased to continue seeing the advances being made in the field of Accessibility.