In 1998, congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities. The goals of these regulations, known as Section 508, are to eliminate barriers in information technology, open new opportunities for people with disabilities, increase collaboration, and encourage development of new technologies. Section 508 address every aspect of electronic documents, from tagging content and animated displays to TTYs and usability of keys and controls.
While the requirements are in place, meeting them can be overwhelming for agencies, especially without universal management standards. Currently, due to technology and different styles and traditions, how 508 compliance is managed and implemented varies across agencies, with some doing it a little better than others. This lack of standardization makes it challenging for the Federal government to create a consistent experience for the public and other government employees. To provide a more structured approach and increase transparency and collaboration, the Federal government launched www.Section508.gov. This resource is designed to be one-stop shop for all Section 508 information. In addition to outlining policies, technology tools and training, it lists federal agency policy guidelines and shared practices. This is a good place to start for 508 policy coordinators or anyone working on their agency's policy.
Some agencies are already taking huge steps forward in developing a successful accessibility program, including the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA provides adaptive equipment training, consultations and technical support to veterans and government employees with disabilities. The VA page is hosted by the Chief Information Office and describes its commitment for universal design in compliance with Section 508 requirements. The Section 508 office has a lab that tests and validates all E&IT products and services for compliance with Section 508 policies. Moreover, they have a great best practices guide for employees and contractors which provides an overview of elements to be included on VA web pages, along with general considerations for creating VA websites.
Meeting Section 508 requirements is a huge undertaking for any organization. Therefore, to share lessons learned and best practices from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Deque is hosting a free seminar: "A Case Study in Real-World Section 508 Compliance: How the VA is de....” Pat Sheehan, Department of Veterans Affairs, and other experts will share how how the VA is deploying one of the largest Section 508 Compliance program in government. Specifically, they will discuss:
- Best practices and lessons learned that have supported the launch of a successful agency-wide program
- Tools used by the agency to drive and measure positive outcomes
- Ways in which the Section 508 program is improving the VA's level of service
- Steps you can take now to be prepared for the upcoming Section 508 refresh
The free seminar is taking place Thursday, February 21st, from 9-10:30AM at the National Press Club. You can learn more about the event and register here.