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Making technology accessible (new law)

Published (5/29/2009)
By Nick Busse
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People with visual or hearing disabilities may find it easier to access Minnesota government services online.

A new law will establish accessibility standards for state information technology, and require state agencies to consider accessibility when purchasing new software, hardware and other technological upgrades.

Sponsored by Rep. Bill Hilty (DFL-Finlayson) and Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope), the law is designed to make it easier for deaf, blind and hard-of-hearing Minnesotans to access state Web sites, documents and other information.

The law directs the Office of Enterprise Technology to develop a set of accessibility and usability standards for state information systems. It also sets up an advisory committee made up of 10 representatives from various areas of state government to review accessibility standards and recommend any needed changes.

Under the law, the office will require all state agencies to comply with the standards. An exception is made if the office and the advisory committee determine that a standard would result in an “undue burden to the state,” in which case the burdensome standard may be modified.

The law appropriates $300,000 in each year of the 2010-2011 biennium from the state’s telecommunications access fund, including:

• $100,000 each year to OET for coordinating technology accessibility and usability;

• $100,000 each year to the Commission on Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing Minnesotans to provide information on their Web site in American Sign Language and to provide technical assistance to state agencies; and

• $100,000 each year to the Legislative Coordinating Commission to provide captioning of live streaming of legislative sessions.

A separate $276,000 appropriation of stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will go to OET and the Department of Administration to help expand “employment outcomes” for people with disabilities.

The law takes effect July 1, 2009.


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