508 Compliance- What you can learn from the Department of Veterans Affairs

On January 24, the Office of the President issued the memo: Strategic Plan for Improving Management of Section 508. As government becomes more digital, transparent and reliant on technology to share information with the public, it is important that electronic information be made available to all people, regardless of disability. Currently, how this is managed and implemented is not consistent across agencies, with some doing it a little better than others. And although all agencies are committed to sharing information with the public and meeting 508 requirements, how, when and who are often barriers to successful programs. Not to mention, it is a huge undertaking for any organization (just ask the Department of Veterans Affairs).

According to the memo, the goal of the strategic plan is to provide government agencies with a more consistent and structured approach to meeting the requirements of 508 compliance. Specifically, it is focused on ensuring that “all electronic and information technology (EIT) that is developed, procured, maintained, or used by the Federal Government is accessible, as required by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.” The strategic plan has three governing principles- increasing transparency, strengthening accountability, and improving collaboration regarding accessible EIT. Focusing on these three aspects provides a helpful foundation for agencies to use in building a successful program. Moreover, it increases citizen engagement and encourages an open dialogue between the government and the public. Below are some of the recommendations and guidelines outlined in the Strategic Plan:

Increase Transparency:

To support increased transparency, the Accessibility Committee created a best practices library, which contains numerous best practice procedures and policies. Specifically, the library has a lot of great resources on inter-agency collaboration and standardizing agency approaches to Section 508 implementation. Another resource for agencies and the public to check out is www.section508.gov. The goal of this website is to be the one-stop shop for information on 508 compliance.

Strengthen Accountability

Developing and maintaining a successful Section 508 program requires clearly defined roles and responsibilities. One recommendation is to have a Section 508 agency leader to manage and develop measures for agencies to meet. The Strategic Plan also outlines specific action steps and deadlines for agencies to meet over the next few years.

Improve Collaboration

Collaboration can create new ideas, reduce costs, and increase agency efficiency. The Strategic Plan focuses on development efforts for Section 508 programs, coordinators, and Federal employees by providing tools, jobs aids, training and a place for open communication and collaboration.

Real-World Case Study

The changing pace of technology and varying management styles of Section 508 makes it challenging for the Federal government to create a consistent experience for the public and other government employees. However, some are already taking huge steps forward in developing a successful accessibility program, including the Department of Veterans Affairs. To share lessons learned and best practices from the VA, Deque is hosting a free seminar: “A Case Study in Real-World Section 508 Compliance: How the VA is deploying one of the largest section 508 programs in government.” 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:

  • Key best practices and lessons learned that have supported the launch of a successful agency-wide program
  • The tools used by the agency to drive and measure positive Section 508 outcomes
  • Ways in which the Section 508 program is improving the level of service the VA is providing its constituents
  • 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.

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