GSA to grade agencies on 508 compliance

The General Services Administration is borrowing a page from the Office of Management and Budget’s playbook and will start grading agencies on how well they comply with Section 508 accessibility requirements.

Terry Weaver, director of GSA’s Information Technology Accessibility and Workforce division, said today that her office will begin assigning red or green scores to agency contracting officers and 508 coordinators depending on whether they are ignoring or complying with the law.

“We are trying to get to the action level,” Weaver said today at an IT Quarterly Forum sponsored by the CIO Council and GSA. “We will not share agency scores with others, but we will tell them how they are doing.”

The law requires agencies to buy electronics and technology that people with disabilities can use. Weaver said her office is using a randomizer to search all electronic and IT solicitations on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site to see if they are meeting the requirements.

She added that her office will sample seven to nine civilian agency and seven to nine Defense Department solicitations each time. The randomizer and office experts will evaluate the samples, she said.

Once GSA and OMB agree on the contents, agencies will receive letters telling them how well they are doing based on the ongoing sampling.

GSA took a sample late last year and found that 80 percent of the solicitations did not mention accessibility requirements, 13 percent were minimally compliant and 7 percent were compliant. Those findings prompted OMB to send a reminder memo to agencies in November.

“We made it clear that someone is watching this process,” said Lesley Field, a procurement policy analyst at the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. “The memo offered agencies some solutions. We must do better.”

OFPP and GSA strongly encourage agencies to use tools such as the Buy Accessible Wizard, available at www.buyaccessible.gov, to boost compliance.

GSA is releasing Version 3 of the site today, said Helen Chamberlain, program director in GSA’s IT Accessibility and Workforce division.

The site now features an updated directory that contracting officers can search for vendor products that are 508-compliant. Vendors are also asked to submit information about how their products and services meet the accessibility requirements, Chamberlain said.

The site provides templates for solicitation documents, lets registered users save data and share documents, and offers enhanced search capabilities by product categories.

“The functionality has grown so much with Version 3,” Chamberlain said. “Version 2.3 was a dinosaur.”

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