CIOs told to improve Section 508 standards

OMB has given agency CIOs new marching orders for making agency IT accessible to the disabled.

key showing accessibility symbol

Editor's note: This story was modified after its original publication to clarify the timing of Section 508.

The Office of Management and Budget recently tasked agency CIOs with improving their agency's Section 508 standards.

Section 508 was added to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in 1986, then replaced with a new version in 1998. It requires agencies to purchase IT that is accessible to people with disabilities.

Under the new OMB directive, CIOs must:

  •  Establish the agency Section 508 program to provide leadership of the program, and appoint the agency Section 508 coordinator/manager. The appointment is due in March.
  •  Develop a plan for completing an agency baseline assessment of the Section 508 program. The CIO Council's Accessibility Committee will create a template on reporting Section 508 standards related to electronic and information technology. The committee will release the template by March 1. CIOs' responses are due four months after the committee releases the template.
  •  Share with the Accessibility Committee ideas for collaboration among agencies to meet standards in common areas. The response is due after the committee releases its template.
  •  Complete their planned assessment using the CIO Council's standard template and share the information with the Accessibility Committee. It is due by Dec. 30.
  •  Begin sharing progress reports on meeting their standards with OMB. The reporting starts in the third quarter of fiscal 2014.

OMB is bringing attention to the standards because of agencies' slow progress at instituting them.

"Implementation of Section 508 across agencies is not consistent, and a more comprehensive approach is needed to build and sustain an accessible federal technology environment," OMB wrote.

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