The Audio Description Project (ADP) subcommittee on Section 508 works with government agencies to help them comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
In late January of 2022 the Section 508 subcommittee provided training through the Access Board's Chief Information Office Community of Practice (CIOC) training committee. These training sessions sponsored by the Access Board provide 6 trainings each year to federal, state, and local agencies on how to meet the technical requirements of Section 508. This year members of he Access Board, Section 508 ADP subcommittee, and National Park Service (NPS) provided an overview of what Audio Description (AD) is, how it can enhance agency programs and provided necessary resources to implement an effective AD program within state, or federal agencies. According to Access Board metrics there were around 500 individuals in attendance from a mixture of state, federal agencies as well as some commercial companies that have multiple contracts with the federal government. Members of the ADP 508 subcommittee followed up with several agencies who needed AD resources to fulfill their requirements to provide AD on agency YouTube videos.
Organizations from the blind community including the American Council of the Blind (ACB), National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) have contacted large federal agencies after reviewing YouTube videos and indicating that they are not meeting Section 508 requirements to provide comparable access to information for multimedia products. These consumers have indicated that there are a large number of multimedia products that provide little AD information for blind consumers. These federal agencies have agreed to evaluate their YouTube products for conformance and provide a schedule of when these products will be remediated. The Section 508 subcommittee also agrees that multimedia products housed in the YouTube platform provide the ability to enable AD as part of their overall capability and not force federal agencies to provide a second video product that is enabled for AD only.
Lastly the Section 508 subcommittee is pleased that the first ADP Public Sector Award was given to the Centers for Disease Control and Office of the Associate Director for Communications at its Conference and Convention July 4, 2022. Quoting from the award guidelines: "The Achievement Awards are made to individuals and/or organizations for outstanding contributions to the establishment and/or continued development of significant audio description programs in each of five areas: media, performing arts, museums/visual arts/visitor centers, international, and public sector."
The awards committee felt that "describes" the CDC's ongoing work promoting access to media during the recent pandemic, especially by providing audio description to videos, and for mentorship of other agencies on best practices in implementing audio description within the federal sector.
The Audio Description Project is guided by a Steering Committee and six subcommittees. Periodically we offer reports of subcommittee activity. This report was submitted by Committee Chair Patrick Sheehan.
The Section 508 subcommittee of the Audio Description Project (ADP) has focused on three tracks concurrently in the first half of 2021. These are education, acquisition and AD training from the AD Institute. In the spring of 2021 members of the 508 ADP presented to GSA's bi-monthly 508 meeting promoting the use of AD as either a Reasonable Accommodation (Section 501) or as part of general program access (Section 504). Although the technical standards for implementing AD in the federal government are clear (Section 508) it is sometimes difficult to know when AD is considered a reasonable accommodation or a program requirement. Knowing what has to be done sometimes is easier then figuring out who is responsible for incorporating AD into multimedia projects. This work is ongoing in the federal sector with agencies having differing levels of maturity of AD programs within their agencies.
The 508 subcommittee completed its Vendor Capability Survey and mailed this out to around 120 commercial AD vendors in July. This survey serves two purposes one is to draw attention to the federal sector as an opportunity for commercial AD vendors to apply their expertise. This survey also serves as one step in the market research process that agency procurement officials can use as part of their acquisition strategy for future procurements. The 508 subcommittee is eager to demonstrate to the 508 community that there are an abundant of vendors who can do this kind of work and it will not break the bank.
Lastly, members of federal agencies have enrolled in the Audio Description Institute which met virtually in March this year. The reaction of video and multimedia producers to the training has been very positive. They were unaware of the rigor that is part of the AD process and were surprised at its application in television, movies, theaters and museums. The media producers all agreed that having both the technical producers of AD and consumers as part of this training was worthwhile and very informative.