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Accessibility of Federal Government’s Technology

September 12, 2012
The Justice Department released its Section 508 report to the President and Congress: "Accessibility of Federal Electronic and Information Technology.”  The report, authorized under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, provides findings based on a survey of federal agencies on the accessibility of their electronic and information technology and the procedures used to implement the requirements of Section 508. Section 508 requires federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities, unless certain exceptions apply.  This includes telecommunications products (such as telephones), information kiosks and transaction machines, websites, multimedia, and office equipment, such as copiers and fax machines, computers, software, firmware and similar products and services.  Specifically, Section 508 requires federal agencies to ensure that technology they develop, procure, maintain, or use allows employees with disabilities and members of the public seeking information or services to have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that available to people who do not have disabilities. Section 508 also requires the attorney general to report and offer recommendations periodically to the President and Congress on the state of federal agency compliance with Section 508. In 2010-2011the department asked federal agencies about their implementation of Section 508. We requested data in four important areas: procurement, general processes for implementing Section 508, administrative complaints and civil actions, and website compliance. The report recommends, among other things, that agencies:
  • establish and publish Section 508 and web accessibility policies and procedures,
  • appoint Section 508 coordinators and establish Section 508 programs,
  • provide more Section 508 training to personnel,
  • ensure accessibility of EIT used in federally funded programs,
  • develop procurement policies and specific solicitation language for Section 508 requirements,
  • perform accessibility testing of EIT products and web pages, and
  • establish specific Section 508 complaint processes including alternative dispute resolution and improve inter-agency coordination on Section 508 compliance.
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