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Setting up and educating an IT Accessibility task force:

The law (HB 1342) established the Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility (EITA) Task Force, called for members to be stakeholders from state government and the private sector, specified Deutschendorf and Capps as co-chairs, and assigned this mission: ¿The Task Force shall study and prepare recommendations concerning the accessibility for the disabled to publicly produced and provided electronic and information technology.¿

 

After passage of the legislation, the first order of business was to staff the task force with appropriate members.  ABLE Tech staff members Linda Jaco and Brenda Dawes compiled a list of people and/or agencies or institutions that would best represent the various entities that would be affected by the proposed accessibility legislation.  AT vendors were included on the list in order to staff the task force with technically knowledgeable individuals.  ABLE Tech provided that list to Kim Bishop, House of Representatives attorney, who wrote it into HB 1342.  (Bishop worked with Jaco and Dawes to draft legislation HB 1342 and HB 2197).

 

Once HB 1342 passed, Jaco and Dawes came up with some names; some were appointed by the governor and in some instances they contacted agency directors and asked them whether they wished to be the member or appoint a designee.  Jaco and Dawes crafted a task force membership invitation letter that went out under the signatures of Senator Capps and Representative Deutschendorf, the two sponsors of HB 1342.  Jaco and Dawes worked with Christy Ice, Secretary for Appointments, and Kim Bishop to bring the task force appointment process to closure.

 

Each member of the task force brought a specific perspective and experience to the table.  Many of the largest state agencies each provided a representative since they would be affected by the possibility of the accessibility compliance law.  These members had experience with proposed legislation and how it works within their specific agencies.  There was also the possibility that the designee would already have some technical experience or background with some of the technical standards of Section 508. 

 

The vendors identified for the task force brought their technical knowledge of assistive technology and familiarity with the Section 508 standards.

 

Finally, the two agencies informally identified as the agencies from where the standards and/or rules would be issued would be critical to membership of the task force in order for their buy in and their knowledge of creating standards and rules.  Those agencies were the Department of Central Services (mainly procurement related issues) and the Office of State Finance (the IT Division of OSF is considered the state¿s Chief Information Officer). 

 

The first of the six task force meetings was held in August 2003, and the main focus was to provide the new members with an in-depth orientation to IT accessibility issues. Two high-powered IT accessibility experts, Deborah Buck, former director of the State IT Accessibility Initiatives of the Information Technology Technical Assistance and Training Center (currently, Buck serves as the executive director of the Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs or ATAP) and Diane Golden, director of Missouri Assistive Technology Project, were brought in to do the training.  Buck discussed Section 508 initiatives undertaken by other states and the relative strengths and weaknesses of the initiatives. Golden provided a first-hand overview of Missouri¿s experiences in implementing accessible IT policies in state government. In addition, task force members were given an up-close demonstration of different kinds of accessible IT.

 

In addition, the task force members received a comprehensive notebook containing information that had been presented during the orientation.  It included copies of section 508, the Access Board standards, the amended Federal Acquisition Regulations with guidance on purchasing accessible IT, steps already taken by Oklahoma to comply with 508, overviews of initiatives implemented by other states, in-depth description of the Missouri model which is highly regarded by both disability rights advocates and IT vendors, and other related information.

 

According to Jaco and Dawes, the task force members were fully immersed in the issues of accessibility right from the start.  They credit this immersion in developing a sense of urgency to get things done in the state.