508 Refresh Goes Live – New Law In Effect on January 18, 2018

The long awaited Refresh of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act becomes the law of the land on January 18, 2018.  Word Wizards has covered the refresh since its’ early planning phase. During the rule making process, we covered the progress of the new regulations and submitted comments in support of 508 accessible transcripts as an alternative to audio description for pre-recorded video media. (See e.g. “Public Comments” Blog Article)We informed our clients and the public about the impact of the final proposed rules.(See e.g. “Final Rule Impact” Article).  Upon its official adoption, we provided a detailed analysis of the refreshed rule and how it will affect information and communication technology (ICT) including video going forward. (See “Detailed Analysis” Article).

Accesibility for all! Keyboard with retunr key in blue as a handicap wheelchair symbol.

New Year New 508 Rules

2017 was a year of many changes. In addition to the changes instated by the 508 refresh law, the faces of politics and regulatory agencies in Washington have drastically changed. This has led many to ask the logical question of, “what will be the effect of the new administration on the development and enforcement of 508 compliance?”  At this time, we have not found any instances where President Trump has directly commented on either the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) which applies broadly across the economic sector; or to the 508 Refresh which applies to the public sector. However, we can gain some insight by examining the background of the current nominee for head of the department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Alex Azar. Azar has been both a government insider and a private sector executive in the health care field.

Alex Azar
Azar with Mary Harney (Irish Minister for Health and Children)


HHS Gets A New Boss

HHS is the largest non-military government organization, with an annual budget of over $1 trillion.  HHS remains at the forefront among Government agencies in enforcing and maintaining accessibility for their 80,000 employees and the public at large.  On August 3, 2001, Alex Azar was confirmed as the General Counsel of HHS. He played an important role in responding to the 2001 anthrax attacks, making sure there was a vaccine ready for small pox, and dealing with outbreaks of SARS and influenza. 1

On July 22, 2005, he was confirmed as the Deputy Secretary of HHS.   He was therefore twice confirmed (unanimously) by the United States Senate.  He led the development and approval of all HHS regulations and led the U.S. government efforts to encourage worldwide pharmaceutical and medical device innovation.  Azar resigned from HHS in January 2007.  In June 2007, he was hired by Eli Lilly to be the company’s top lobbyist.  Effective January 1, 2012, Azar became President of Lilly USA, LLC, the largest E.L. division, and was responsible for the company’s entire operations in the US. 2  Azar will likely focus on the cost of health care – and how to get more values out of the system – which captured his attention both during his past stint at HHS and while top executive at Eli Lilly. 3   

“I’m just absolutely sure that he would want to continue to drive that,” said Mary Grealy, the head of the Health Care Leadership Council.

1 & 2 – Wikipedia.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_Azar#cite_note-changes-13

The Future of 508

Getting the most health care bang for the buck would be just one of the many ongoing challenges that Azar would face. Accessibility within HHS is another. We anticipate that he will do a great job at both.  With a $1 trillion budget, he has a lot at stake in protecting the accessibility of HHS employees and the public.  To accomplish his goals and stay true to the mission of his agency, Azar will need to closely examine spending and resource allocation across his agency.  A tough task, especially considering federal health care spending is projected to grow from its current 28% of all government spending, excluding interest on the debt, to 40% in 2047. 4 We anticipate Mr. Azar will want to find a way to ensure that Government ICT continues to meet the requirements of the Section 508 Refresh. In an era of diminishing federal budgets, hiring freezes, and other financially conservative measures, this will not be an easy task.  However, as of January 18th,  the Refresh is now the law of the land, and there has been no indication from the new administration that these standards will not be met or enforced.

3 & 4Maureen Groppe, USA Today  Published 11:30 a.m. ET Nov. 13, 2017 / Updated 7:39 p.m. ET Nov. 13, 2017

Title Region in Excel: Defining for JAWS 16

Since software is constantly updating and evolving, we have to keep up with changes to make the most accessible documents as possible. With that in mind, issues can sometimes arise with the new versions of our most commonly used software, such as JAWS. What works in an older version may not translate well into the newest update.

This post will cover the process of defining the title region in Excel worksheets. In JAWS 13, it was straightforward to set the title region. Users of JAWS 16 will have to take a different approach, however, as what worked in the old version no longer applies.

Issue Defining the Title Region

Excel Icon

With Excel worksheets, JAWS 13 was able to read a defined title region by announcing the row and/or column header. Unfortunately, this convenient function does not apply automatically to JAWS 16.  The newer version will read out either the heading row or the column. It won’t read both. The header it chooses is determined by whether the row or column is selected first (while holding down the CTRL key).

However, we have found that it is still possible to get JAWS 16 to define a title region in Excel worksheets. The only issue is that Excel has a setting that prevents it from doing so. All you have to do is switch that setting!

The Fix

Within Excel is a JAWS verbosity setting that will prevent the software from using the old JAWS 13 manner for defining a title region. The following steps will allow you to define a title region in JAWS 16:

  1. Go into the settings by pressing JAWS Key-V from an Excel window
  2. Type ‘name’ into the search box
  3. Change the override name setting (which should be the only search result) to ‘off.’

Now you should be able to define the title region, giving you a more accessible Excel worksheet!


2012 Interagency Disability Educational Awareness Showcase

The 2012 IDEAS conference (Interagency Disability Educational Awareness Showcase) is right around the corner, and this year, Word Wizards is preparing an exhibit that demonstrates our 508 accessibility capabilities. The U.S. Government is dedicated, and legally bound, to provide accessible resources for individuals with visual and auditory disabilities on their various internet outlets. Word Wizards has developed an acute expertise at remediating documents, interactive forms, and online videos to achieve compliance with section 508 of the National Rehabilitation Act.

Accessibility vs. Compliance: Whats The Difference?

The demand for section 508 accessibility compliance services has never been greater. With a huge volume of companies, organizations, and independent consultants now claiming to offer 508 compliance solutions, it is increasingly difficult to know who is who in the industry. From our experience there are two different types of player in the world of 508 compliance services.

The first is are firms looking to marginally increase their revenues by accessing the emerging market for 508 compliance services. These companies claim that they are 508 compliance experts, who then turn around and outsource to firms that are very good at meeting the legal requirements of compliance without a concern for the accessibility of the final product. In this case, the client meets its legal requirement, yet fails to provide true accessibility. Unfortunately, the end result is a low cost solution to a potentially expensive problem and people are willing to ignore the obvious short comings for minimal cost savings.

The second type of player are the firms that are honestly dedicated to providing accessible content solutions for their clients. Companies of this nature (like us here at Word Wizards) actually know how this process is done because they do it in house. These companies make it a priority to go beyond the legal requirements of the section 508 accessibility law, ensuring that the services they provide for their customers result in media content that is accessible and of significant value to those with visual or auditory disabilities.

The difference is all about context, its about creating something that takes the limitations of those individuals with disabilities into account. Something could be considered “compliant” with no real advantage to the end user, aka someone with sensory disabilities; and, in our minds, that is worse than doing nothing in the first place. It is our continuing mission here at Word Wizards to work towards a more accessible internet experience for the U.S. Government and beyond.

Some Good IDEAS

So, we invite you to join us this year at the IDEAS conference and decide for yourself, just remember, when your age finally catches up and your senses no longer work like they used to, are you going to expect the bare minimum when it comes time to interacting effectively with the government, or would you rather someone had gotten the job done right before it was to late for you.