Justice Department to survey agencies on accessibility compliance

First Section 508 evaluation since 2004 to be completed next year, according to White House

For the first time since 2004, the Justice Department will evaluate how well agencies are complying with federal requirements for accessibility, including access to Web sites and other information technology.

The governmentwide assessment will begin in September 2010 and will be completed in the spring of 2011, according to a White House memorandum dated July 19 and distributed by Office of Federal Procurement Policy Administrator Daniel Gordon and Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra.

Federal agencies will be surveyed about compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which includes provisions for accessibility to all electronic and information technology. Those requirements cover development, procurement, use and maintenance of electrical devices and IT.

“In the spring of 2011, the DOJ will issue a progress report on federal agency compliance with Section 508, the first since 2004,” the memo states. “Going forward, DOJ will meet its obligation to issue a report biennially.”

Although the Justice Department should issue a report on Section 508 compliance every two years under the Rehabilitation Act, that has not happened since 2004.

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To date, federal agencies have made efforts to meet the accessibility rules. “While some agencies have made progress in this area, all agencies must make accessibility a cornerstone of their open government plans,” Gordon and Kundra wrote.

The memo notes several activities and programs to help the agencies meet the requirements and strengthen their compliance.

The General Services Administration is in charge of providing technical assistance in Section 508 compliance, which it offers at the Section508.gov Web site. Those tools include the BuyAccessible Wizard to help build compliant requirements and solicitations, including prepackaged solicitation documents.

In addition, the CIO Council recently created an Accessibility Committee that will collaborate with GSA, Justice and the U.S. Access Board in distributing the accessibility survey to agencies in September.

To address emerging new technologies, including social media, the GSA Office of Governmentwide Policy will provide updated guidance within 180 days on making government electronic devices and IT accessible, the memo said.

Also within 180 days, the GSA will update its Section 508 training materials.


About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Thu, Jul 22, 2010 W. S. Dyer III College Park

The Department of the Navy has made great strides in 508 compliance, but due to stringent security requirements still has some work to be done. Present systems implementations are adequate for most users of accommodations, but new accommodations are still difficult to accredit and certify. The security requirements will not go away. This will limit both the number and complexity of the accommodations being implemented. But it will still allow for new accommodations that are able to vault the security hurdles.

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