Thread Subject: Re: The cause vs. the symptom
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From: Peter Korn
Date: Tue, Mar 18 2008 11:05 AM
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Hi Randy, all,
As this thread goes to the heart of several provisions we are talking
about today, I want to highlight it again.
I believe we have three variants of "the question". They are:
#1 Randy's initial question-statement:
"Should Section 508 require that an E&IT product interoperate with
available assistive technology?"
#2 My suggested re-wording of Randy's question-statement, casting the
issue in procurement terms:
"Should Section 508 require that agencies procure only E&IT products
which interoperate with available assistive technologies (where not an
undue burden on the agency)?"
#3 My take on the question-statement:
"Should Section 508 require that agencies procure only those E&IT
platforms, those E&IT applications, and those assistive technologies,
that interoperate with each other in order to provide an accessible E&IT
environment (where not an undue burden on the agency)?"
Do any other TEITAC members have thoughts about this? Also, do any
other TEITAC members (and especially folks from government & advocacy)
have thoughts about the characterizations of "key issues for the various
stakeholders"? Perhaps if we are able to find common ground on the
question-statement & key issues, we can get closer to consensus on how
to address this in our provisions & proposed language to the Access Board.
Sun Microsystems, Inc.
> Thank you. This is a very wise approach.
> May I suggest a minor modification to your question? I suggest we
> phrase it as: "Should Section 508 require that agencies procure only
> E&IT products which interoperate with available assistive technologies
> (where not an undue burden on the agency)?" I make this suggestion
> to highlight the fact that the burden is always on agencies (who
> typically choose to shift some of that burden onto industry through
> the procurement process, the FAR, VPATs, indemnification clauses, etc.).
> Likewise, I'd like to suggest minor re-wordings of your otherwise
> excellent characterization of the various positions/key issues for the
> various stakeholders:
> 1. E&IT Industry: "We can't be responsible for what we aren't
> delivering. If we deliver only the app, we can't be responsible for
> the platform. If we deliver only the platform, we can't be
> responsible for the app. And in all cases, we can't be responsible
> for the AT (unless of course we are delivering that too). We are
> happy to agree to expose information technically that AT can use, but
> we can't be responsible for whether, when, and how that AT actually
> makes use of it (or fails to make use of it)."
> 2. Consumers & Advocates: "Fundamentally this all needs to work
> together so that employees with disabilities have an E&IT environment
> that is accessible, efficient, and productive. Agencies cannot simply
> purchase E&IT that exposes information to AT if they aren't also
> purchasing AT that utilizes that information and otherwise works with
> the E&IT. In fact, we don't really care how the parts work together,
> so long as they do in fact work together. Further, if the necessary
> AT doesn't exist, then of course the E&IT shouldn't be purchased. And
> since E&IT has the most resources, we expect that E&IT will do the
> bulk of the work in making the interoperability happen."
> 3. Assistive Technology Industry: [I don't suggest any re-wording of this]
> 4. Agencies: "We need to have information that allows us to procure
> things that work together. We know that AT is often a necessary part
> of the solution, but we don't know what platforms & apps work with
> what AT. Without that knowledge, we can't do our job."
> For me, I think there is a more appropriate version of what you put
> forth as the key question, to wit: "Should Section 508 require that
> agencies procure only those E&IT platforms, those E&IT applications,
> and those assistive technologies, that interoperate with eachother in
> order to provide an accessible E&IT environment (where not an undue
> burden on the agency)?" The subtle shift here in the question for me
> subsumes the issue of "existing AT". You can't procure what doesn't
> exist. But this way of looking at the problem makes it more clear
> that this three-party dance needs three cooperative dance partners.
> Randy - if I understand you correctly, you see this shift in the
> question as lowering the incentives for E&IT to work with AT. Is that
> correct? I don't see such a lowering. As per the FPC, unless my
> product is self-voicing, self-magnifying, self-..., I cannot put it
> forth as a total and accessible solution unto itself. I can only put
> it forth as a piece of the solution. The question is, does the agency
> recognize my viewpoint that I cannot be responsible for AT? It still
> cannot purchase my product without the commercial availability of AT
> that interoperates with my product. I am still strongly incented to
> make sure such AT exists, to work with AT vendors, etc. BUT if there
> is an interoperability problem, my potential liability is much more
> clearly limited.
> Regarding your funding idea, I think it is great. I fear that it is
> outside the scope of TEITAC in particular, and the Access Board in
> general (not that we can't suggest it anyway). But it certainly isn't
> outside the scope of other government engagements around accessibility
> that are taking places now and in the future.
> Regarding your idea of hiring people with disabilities (including
> especially folks with more severe disabilities who would likely use
> AT), I likewise think it is great.
> Regarding indemnification, I think Allen addresses this well.
> Limiting indemnification to the things E&IT is clearly responsible for
> (and not for things it isn't) would satisfy the issue for me.
> Peter Korn
> Accessibility Architect,
> Sun Microsystems, Inc.
>> I feel like we are battling over individual clauses that have a
>> common underlying problem, and that rather than address the
>> underlying problem, we are spending enormous amounts of time on the
>> individual issues it creates. I propose we step up, and examine the
>> cause head-on. The problem, posed as a question, is this: should
>> Section 508 require that an E&IT product interoperate with available
>> assistive technology? As discussed yesterday, we may not be able to
>> resolve this problem ourselves in the next three weeks and so may
>> have to forward the differing positions to the Access Board
>> unresolved. In an effort to get a start on that "Note", here are my
>> I believe the viewpoints of each side are as follows (correct me if
>> I'm wrong, or stakeholders from each can modify):
>> *1. E&IT Industry*: "We can't be responsible for what AT does or
>> doesn't do, since it is largely outside our control. We can agree to
>> expose information technically that AT can use, but can't guarantee
>> that AT actually exists that makes use of it"
>> *2. Consumers & Advocates*: "Simply technically exposing the
>> information is not enough, if a person with a disability still can't
>> use it. If an E&IT product doesn't provide access in and of itself
>> and AT doesn't exist that is compatible with it, then it will not be
>> useable by many people with disabilities and therefore should not be
>> purchased by the Federal Government."
>> *3. Assistive Technology Industry:* "We require cooperation from our
>> E&IT industry counterparts to ensure actual interoperability exists
>> between their products and our assistive technology products, and
>> frown on anything which would lower incentive to do that. We also
>> can't be expected to develop assistive technology for platforms or
>> products for which we have little or no potential market."
>> *A Fourth Entity.* There is a fourth entity in the equation: the
>> purchaser (ie. the government). If the government mandates
>> interoperability between E&IT and AT, then it should be prepared to
>> at least partially fund that mandate. This would break the paradox
>> outlined by the three positions above.
>> In an ideal world, it would go something like this: "We, the Federal
>> Government, wish to purchase the brand new XYZ technology from E&IT,
>> and recognize that no AT exists for it yet. So, as part of our
>> procurement, we will help to fund the work necessary for
>> interoperability between XYZ and commercially-available AT. Further,
>> we will make best efforts to hire people with disabilities, thus
>> creating a market for the newly-developed assistive technology, while
>> at the same time lowering social assistance costs by helping those
>> employees with disabilities become independent and self-sustaining".
>> Separately, government procurement officials should accept the
>> liability mandated by Section 508, and /not/ require indemnity
>> clauses from industry. This ensures the responsibility of Section
>> 508 remains where the lawmakers intended it to be: on the government.
>> Specifically related to the government's responsibilities in 508, I
>> propose we make the following recommendations as an adjunct to our
>> proposed 508 draft:
>> 1. The government establish a mechanism to help fund
>> interoperability development. (This could be a new category within
>> the SBIR program - Small Business Innovation Research, that is
>> already well-funded). AT companies would apply for these grants in
>> conjunction with E&IT partners to fund access development for new
>> 2. Government procurement agencies should not be allowed to require
>> indemnification clauses in procurement contracts that shifts the
>> liability of accessibility from the Federal Department to industry.
>> 3. The government establish incentive programs for hiring people
>> with disabilities, with a special emphasis placed on those that
>> require specialized access technology.