Resolution 2014-06 Regarding Maryland Hub

WHEREAS, through the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in 2000, the Maryland General Assembly passed HB592 and SB607 requiring the state to include a nonvisual access clause in contracts for the purchase of information technology, facilities and services used by employees and the public; and

WHEREAS, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is responsible for helping state agencies obtain the fiscal, capital, and personnel resources needed to provide services to Maryland citizens, and the Department of Information Technology (DoIT) has policy responsibility for information technology matters across state agencies; and

WHEREAS, the State of Maryland has created a central data sharing and storage system called the Hub, a multimedia web portal which is intended to facilitate mandatory statewide training, create an electronic time keeping system, and develop a seamless way to share data between agencies, thus reducing paper and travel costs; and

WHEREAS, in the past year, the department of Budget and Management and the Department of Information Technology, which are responsible for ensuring that electronic information is accessible to state employees and to Maryland citizens, introduced the hub with little or no thought as to whether it would be usable by blind employees or other citizens using screen reading software; and

WHEREAS, when the Hub was released, all state employees were mandated to create accounts as quickly as possible, only to learn that accessing the system was nearly impossible without sighted assistance; and

WHEREAS, only after numerous complaints from blind employees did the DBM take steps to address accessibility issues which should have been considered before the Hub program was released; and

WHEREAS, all employees will be required to use this system to participate in mandatory training, possibly complete their own time sheets, and for any other purposes the Department of Budget and Management may require in the future; and

WHEREAS, even if one accessibility issue is fixed, there is no assurance that future updates to the Hub will be usable by blind people or that training and other materials placed on the Hub will be usable; and

WHEREAS, as an initiative of DBM and DoIT, Maryland government agencies were directed to switch from the Microsoft suite of office products (which are accessible) to Google Apps, which are more often than not inaccessible, thus affecting blind employees' productivity and creating additional barriers to their employment: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Convention assembled this sixteenth day of November, 2014 in the city of Towson, Maryland, that we urge The Department of Budget And Management and the Department of Information Technology not to require state employees to use the Hub until it has been thoroughly tested by blind technology specialists; AND

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that procedures be established and rigorously enforced to ensure that future updates to the Hub and other electronic information be accessible to all of Maryland's employees and citizens.