October 24, 2005

No Boundaries Logo

Pauline Lamontagne, Chair
Carolyn Bebee, Co-Chair
Kathy Powers
Kathy Record
Floyd White
Ellen Wood
Eric Dibner
Bruce Prindall
Leigh Wilkinson
Val Wood
Alan Parks
Jon Steuerwalt
Kate Gilligan, TextHELP (Browsealoud)
Dick Hinkley, Director of E-Gov

Agenda Item #1: Browsealoud Presentation by Kate Gilligan from textHELP

Browsealoud is an accessibility tool used in the workplace and schools designed for folks to have better access to information. Browsealoud is a software solution for speech enabling website content. The cursor moves over text, the underlying words are simultaneously highlighted and spoken aloud.

Technical support is available at (800) 248 0652 or support@browsealoud.com. At the first of the year, a new version of Browsealoud will be coming out that will work on MACs. The ability to use other browsers is also being added to Browsealoud like Firefox, etc. The current Browsealoud software does handle IE and SAFARI browsers. Also looking at handling foreign language in a document.

Some of the folks who did try the Browsealoud trail did have an issue a bit of delay; this could be a result of how busy someone's computer is. Another issue as pronunciation of words which can be controlled by the webmaster. An example given was the word "Content". The wrong pronunciation changes the meaning of the word.

The folks currently using Browsealoud are primarily folks with cognitive and visual disabilities and English language learners.

There currently is a Browsealoud demo on the maine.gov page for folks to use and see how it works. Ellen will talk with Kate to extend the demo for another month.

For more information on Browsealoud contact this website http://www.browsealoud.com.

Agenda Item #2: Accessibility Law Presentation to the Chief Information Officer, Dick Thompson

A recommendation for an accessibility law for Maine State Government was presented to the Chief Information Officer, Dick Thompson to get his perspective on moving forward with this goal on accessibility of IT information. Current accessibility standards/policies cover the Executive branch not the Legislative and Judicial branches. The IT Accessibility Committee would like to move forward and not lose the momentum of the work that has already been done.

The CIO noted the work that has been accomplished by the IT Accessibility Committee has been recognized by Maine 's national peers but we do have a long way to go.

Recommendation 1: The IT Accessibility Committee should proceed with a plan to develop an IT accessibility law for the State of Maine .

For R1 above, Dick noted draft of a law should be comprehensive. We currently do have some standards that we have implemented. There is also a waiver process in place to think about. Dick's commented "in concept, you have my support" pending review of a "Draft Law". There needs to be a process to allow for emergency wavier from the CIO.

The law would cover accessibility as it relates to information technology (delivering services). Should we consider other relationships, engage other folks in the administration? The CIO is supportive pending review of draft language and will provide available resources to do this.

Recommendation 2: If the SAC decides to implement Recommendation 1, the Committee should establish an "Information Technology Accessibility Law Development Subcommittee" (ITALDS) to be chaired by a member of the SAC and with membership composed of stakeholders as suggested below. The ALW further recommends that the SAC identify and fund sufficient staff resources to support the work of the ITALDS.

Dick's concern on R2 above, having one rep from each group could slow the process of moving forward in a timely fashion. Could have a subset of the list on page 3 of the June 27, 2005 ALW report. Could engage these folks in a meeting and ask for volunteers, some folks in the list do need to be involved. Do you get someone from the Legislature? Will this law impact the Legislature and Judicial branches? Where this law is placed in the statutes in important to consider. Accessibility of IT, as a whole of State Government, will impact delivery of services. This law will also impact the private sector working with Maine State Government (receiving funds from Maine State Government).

The CIO will make sure the resources are available to move forward with R1. How does the Committee see R2 starting out? How do we get buy in from legislative sponsors? Can someone from the Reviser's Office be involved?

Dick noted for a likely success for a law the Committee will need enough detail of the expectations of the law to bring before the Governor for his support. Dick suggested targeting October of 2006 to present the language, draft go to the Reviser's Office for an analysis, interviews, and view other impacts. Bring before the Chairs of the Joint IT Accessibility Committee on State and Local Government or the Labor Committee. Once a sponsor(s) is found, the language will be printed (Legislative Document) for hearing. Folks will need to testify at the hearing in support of the law. The CIO would testify, Dept. of Labor would testify, University would testify. The law would need unanimous "ought to pass" vote of the committee.

Success would also depend on how tough and tight the language becomes and type of fiscal note. This needs to be done upfront. What would be the additional costs for the Legislature and Judicial branches? The scope is to cover all people and all disabilities.

What is our expectation: expand the use of IT, doing business must be accessible, state buy accessible equipment. How much is it worth fighting for? We do have some things in place already. What happens if the Legislature says it is too costly? The law would tighten the standards/policies already in place. Where is the greatest risk? In providing the service or not meeting accessibility standards?

It was noted that the CIO has always been very supportive of accessibility. A law will always be there and is tighter than a policy that can be changed. Also noted was the change of administration and having a law in place may not be affected by change of administration. We also need public education and awareness and to bring everybody on board. We need a working group with a "background group "to keep reviewing. Having an up front investment at the beginning of the process is much better.

There is no law out there that is a good model; there are certain pars of different laws. Maine would have the opportunity to be the first to design a "Good" accessibility law.

Dick noted some things to think about. What do users do if it is not accessible? What do we want for expectations? Does it present a risk for us? Eric noted we need to do it the right way in the beginning.

In concluding this discussion with the Committee, Dick commented that IT responsibilities do fall within the jurisdiction of the CIO. We need to do this because it is the right thing to do. A suggestion he made was to contact the stakeholders (list on page 3 of the ALD report), set up a meeting with a rep from each group, and get their perspective of an accessibility law for Maine State Government. The next step would be to ask for volunteers from the stakeholders list to set up a work group to move forward in drafting language for an accessibility law.

Next on the agenda, Dick made the Committee aware of the new IT organization setup to include Kathy Record's new assignment as Associate CIO which would involve new responsibilities in working side by side with him. Kathy's new position would result in her transitioning out of the ASC. He noted that Dick Hinkley was appointed as the Director for E-Government Services and David Blocher as Director of Policy and Strategies. Dick noted these two service groups would be involved with working with the IT Accessibility Committee in assisting them to move forward in improving IT accessibility for all folks with disabilities.

A question was asked of Dick as to where the ASC stands in his office and Dick responded that the ASC is an advisory committee to the CIO.

Carolyn spoke on Kathy Record's leadership and that she will be greatly missed by the entire Committee.

Going back to the discussion of an accessibility law, Dick noted the need to get a broader base before a final decision is made to move forward. Pauline asked is there were policies/standards in place that can be re-evaluated and make necessary changes.

Jon thanked Dick for reviewing the law recommendation report and taking the time to attend this meeting. He noted that the settlement of a violation was not to award cash but to make it right. The law says something will be accessible and it is not when you turn it on, what is the impact of this law? What is the cost? What happens if it does not work when you turn it on? There are consequences and costs to not making it accessible. Dick commented it could be a third party liability to the provider and we do have to take it seriously.

Eric asked Dick if there is a contract violation now can you keep them from turning in on. Dick responded yes. Dick said we have made major headway, we are a leader, we have accomplished activity in web, portal, e-government, and digital government services for Maine . We need to Maine 's IT story out there.

The Committee will work on drafting language for a law. Dick approved having Kathy write up the 2005 annual report for the Committee. Dick Hinkley will join the Committee. Eric noted another area that is a major part of accessibility that being applications.

Where do we go from here with the accessibility law?

  • Set up a large group meeting from the stakeholders list
  • Form a new committee to research and draft language for a law
  • Need a Chair from the ASC

Carolyn suggested that the Law Subcommittee reconvene and bring together a plan to move forward. She also asked that the IT Accessibility Committee reach a decision and vote on whether to move forward with a law? The IT Accessibility Committee members voted unanimously in favor of moving forward.

The IT Accessibility Committee agreed to have Ellen continue negotiations with TextHELP regarding Browsealoud software. Ellen will also push to keep the trial version up for another month.

Eric commented on the need to look into video captioning and review the IT policy to see if it does include video captioning and if not to update the policy.

Meeting adjourned.

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