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Accessibility Advisory Committees

Guidelines on the purpose of the Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC), membership, and how to establish meetings

The purpose of an Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) is to advise a project on IT accessibility issues.  Activities usually include:

  • reviewing accessibility test planning and results,
  • participating in severity scoring by providing a practical perspective, and
  • evaluating mitigation, remediation, and accommodation alternatives.

Large projects, as measured by cost, time, scope, and/or audience, should have an AAC to help assure that potential accessibility issues are caught and handled as early as possible to mitigate the risk of costly, last minute remediation.

AACs may be established in contract terms or as a mitigation letter condition.

Membership

Composition may be outlined in a contract or mitigation letter, and commonly include representation from:

  • EOTSS: guidance on standards and technical aspects of accessibility
  • MA Office on Disabilities: ADA Coordinator for the Executive Department; handles inquiries and complaints
  • Other ADA Coordinators: Executive Office and/or agency; responsible for mitigation or accommodation for employees and general public
  • MA Commission for the Blind: practical insights on IT impacts for people who are blind or have any one of the many conditions categorized as "low vision"
  • MA Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing: practical insights on IT impacts for people with no or restricted hearing
  • MA Rehabilitation Commission: practical insights on IT impacts for people with any disability
  • Project Leads: Program Manager, Project Managers from state and vendor
  • As needed: Other project staff may be invited, depending on the phase of the project and the relevance of work they have been doing.  This would include, for instance, Development and QA leads, outside accessibility testing staff, etc.
  • Optional: Executive Office and/or agency CIO representative

Establishing meetings

Because one state agency is asking for resources from another, some degree of formality is called for. 

Two approaches:

Agency head asks other agency heads for a representative.

OR

Identify representatives you would like; agency head asks other agency heads for permission. This approach would be desirable if, for instance, you know there is someone who would bring additional value, either by their knowledge or by being a user of the system.

Invitation letter:

Invitations are usually sent as emails.  The invitation letter should include:

  • Project overview: what it is, the duration, who the users of the system are, and other relevant information.
  • Accessibility overview: what is known about the accessibility of the product, which may include an overview of the accessibility findings prior to contract completion, contract or mitigation letter conditions, etc.
  • Role of AAC in the project: a statement of the purpose of the AAC
  • Frequency of meetings and other obligations

It is recommended that you inquire about meeting accommodations that may be needed as some members may have disabilities.

Meetings

Most AACs set up as part of contract terms or mitigation letter conditions are required to meet at least quarterly.  More frequent meetings may be needed at certain points in the project.

Agendas and Materials

Agendas and materials to be covered in the meeting should be sent out in accessible, electronic formats prior to the meeting to allow AT users attending to copy it to portable devices, print out in large formats, or otherwise make them more usable.  They should be sent at least one business day in advance, but earlier would be better.

Initial Meeting

The agenda for the first meeting of an AAC commonly includes the following items:

  • Introductions and welcome
  • Overview of project
    • purpose
    • users
    • IT being used (Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) software, Software as a Service (SaaS), legacy integration, custom development, etc.)
    • timeline
  • Contract accessibility terms and mitigation letter conditions
  • Overview of how accessibility is being integrated into project lifecycle
  • Overview or review of any existing accessibility materials: VPATs, third party testing results, white papers/manuals with implementation info, usability studies, etc.
  • Discussion of AAC meeting schedule and agenda for next meeting

When possible, there may also be demonstrations or screen shots for SaaS or COTS included in the project.

Future Meetings

The time and agenda of the meeting should have been discussed at the prior meeting.  The exact agenda will be determined by the activities of the project itself.

 

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