By the time the next survey is issued, more than two years will have passed since the Access Board’s Section 508 Standards were incorporated into the Federal Acquisition Regulation. Future surveys will likely address all aspects of compliance with section 508, including evaluations of procurements of:
- video or multi-media products,
- self-contained, closed products such as electronic office equipment and information transaction machines,
- web page services,
- software, and
- desktop and laptop computers.
The 2003 survey of the agencies’ compliance with section 508 is currently underway. Further information about the 2003 survey can be found at the interagency section 508 website at http://www.section508.gov.
Future surveys will also likely cover issues such as compatibility with adaptive equipment; accessible product information and help services; and the resolution of complaints for alleged failures to comply with section 508.
In anticipation of future surveys, agencies should develop internal systems for tracking the following information:
- Surveys of major steps taken to comply with section 508, including any impact on significant procurement actions, etc. Future surveys will likely ask questions regarding the steps agencies have found to be significant during the integration of section 508 into their procurement policies and practices.
- Follow-up on the Department’s recommendations. While many of the Department’s recommendations are not section 508 requirements, they represent policies or practices that the Department believes constitute good practices for agencies. Therefore, the Department anticipates surveying agencies on any steps that they have taken to implement these recommendations.
- Documentation of undue burden determinations and other defenses.Section 508 permits federal agencies to procure electronic and information technology that does not meet the section 508 standards if doing so would impose an undue burden, or if another defense applies. Determinations of undue burden and other defenses must be documented and kept with the files supporting the procurement. In addition, the Federal Acquisition Regulation requires agencies to document which standards cannot be met for other defenses, such as commercial nonavailability, and the market research performed to meet the standards and to include this information with the files supporting the procurement. As part of subsequent surveys, the Department of Justice will likely ask agencies to identify situations in which they used these defenses. Accordingly, agencies are strongly encouraged to develop systematic methods for tracking their use of defenses. One such method might be to require procurement officers to send copies of documents identifying when these defenses are asserted to the agency’s Section 508 Coordinator.
Some Agencies Setting Undue Burden Threshold High
Section 508 does not require agencies to procure EIT that meets the section 508 technical or performance standards if doing so would impose an undue burden. Because agencies face potential liability if procurement officers do not adequately assess undue burden before purchasing EIT that does not meet the Standards, some agencies are taking steps to ensure that the undue burden determination was carefully made.
Update: For instance, on January 30, 2003, the Department of Transportation issued 508 procedures that include an Undue Burden Advisory Board (UBAB), a multidisciplinary group of section 508 experts, that reviews, analyzes, recommends, and advises on complex undue burden issues, with ultimate review at the Secretarial level. Not only does such a procedure protect the agency, it also reflects a serious commitment to section 508 implementation.
- Retention of information regarding section 508 complaints. Agencies should also develop a system for tracking all complaints filed with an agency for alleged violations of section 508, as well as the final disposition of those complaints. This system should include both complaints filed in federal court and administrative complaints against the agency.