Section 508 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

 

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Q. Why do we have to respond to this survey?

A. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act specifically requires federal departments and agencies to "evaluate the extent to which the electronic and information technology of the department or agency is accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, ... and submit a report containing the evaluation to the Attorney General." 29 U.S.C. § 794d(c). Furthermore, each department or agency is required to "provide to the Attorney General such information as the Attorney General determines is necessary to conduct the evaluations." 29 U.S.C. § 794d(e). The materials contained in the April 2 package provides the information needed for your agency to meet this obligation.

 

Q. Where can our agency get the 508 package in electronic format?

A. The April 2 package can be obtained in electronic format at:

www.usdoj.gov/crt/508/508home.html

Both .pdf (portable document format accessible via Adobe Acrobat) and HTML versions are available from this web site. In addition, versions of the package in alternate format are available in limited quantities for persons with disabilities who are affiliated with federal agencies.

 

Q. Why is it necessary for our agency to submit a "Designated Agency Official" form?

A. Without a Designated Agency Official form, we cannot determine which agencies have received the 508 information packet and have distributed it to the appropriate personnel for submitting a response. Also, as new information becomes available, we intend to distribute information electronically via e-mail to the designated agency officials. Although your agency can submit information to the www.508.org website, your agency may miss crucial information that will be distributed only via e-mail.

 

Q. What is a "component" for purposes of the Component Questionnaire?

A. Because each agency has a different system of internal organization, there is no uniform definition of "component." Section 508 is largely targeted towards procurements of electronic and information technology. Because such technology (e.g. word processing packages, e-mail systems, copiers, and other electronic and information technology identified in the Component Questionnaire and related checklists) are frequently procured on a system-wide basis, the Component Questionnaire should be answered at whatever level of your agency that typically makes such system-wide procurements. Note that this may create some overlap between components (e.g. different components of an agency may all use the same e-mail system, but use different word processing packages). Smaller agencies and agencies that only do agency-wide procurement will have a single agency-wide component for the purposes of the Section 508 self-evaluation.

 

Q. What is the difference between the agency questionnaire and the component questionnaire?

A. The component questionnaire (tab 7 of the April 2nd package from the Attorney General) asks very specific information about the electronic and information technology used by your components. Your responses are to be submitted on a special web page identified in the information package. By contrast, the agency questionnaire (question 3 of the "Agency Directions" at tab 4 of the April 2 package) requests agency-wide information and recommendations. This agency-wide self-evaluation may be submitted either in writing or by e-mail.

 

Q. We want to collect all of our answers before submitting any information on the web page. Is this a good idea?

A. Many agencies may be tempted to collect all of their responses from each of their components and carefully review them before submitting any information to the special web site that we have created for information intake. We have discouraged use of this approach for two reasons. First, it is unnecessary because submissions to the web site can be edited at any time prior to selecting the "Final Completion" button after signing in. Second, if many agencies delay in submitting their information and wait until shortly before the web site is closed, the web server may be very busy and it may be difficult or impossible to make lengthy submissions. We encourage your components to begin submitting their information as soon as possible.

 

Q. Should we use the Attorney General's material as "standards" for ensuring that our agency's electronic and information technology is accessible?

A. No. The materials in the April 2 package are meant only for surveying the current accessibility of the federal government's electronic and information technology. The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board ("Access Board") will develop standards for compliance with section 508 by February 2000.

 

Q. Should our agency be concerned about answers in our responses that suggest that our electronic and information technology is inaccessible?

A. Agencies cannot be held liable for violating section 508 until after August 2000. To the extent that your agency's self-evaluation reveals inaccessible technology, you may wish to use it to establish a "priority list" for making your electronic and information technologies more accessible. Any concrete plans for addressing accessibility deficiencies should be included in your overall agency evaluation and will be considered when the Department of Justice issues its report to the President in February 2000.

 

Q. Does section 508 apply to private businesses or state and local governments?

A. No. Section 508 establishes obligations only for the federal government. Section 508 does not directly affect either private businesses or state and local governments.

 

Q. Is there a correction to the IT Equipment Accessibility Checklist?

A. Yes. The corrected question on page 2 the IT Equipment Checklist should read, "On average, used approximately ___ times a week by members of the public and ____ times a week by federal employees."

 

Q. Are extensions beyond June 15, 1999, possible?

A. We do not expect to extend the June 15, 1999, deadline. Internal testers at the Justice Department have previewed a longer version of the questionnaires and have indicated that the Component checklists took, on average, 30 minutes to complete. At the component level, our testers were able to complete the 508 questionnaire in less than one week from receipt. Given the huge amount of data that we expect to receive, the Department of Justice needs ample time to review the information in order to create an objective and fair report for the President by February 2000. Therefore, an early deadline is critical to our thorough review of all agencies' submissions. However, if an extension becomes necessary, we will announce it via e-mail to each agency's Designated Agency Official.

 

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Last revised June 2, 1999