The Section 508 report is a critical component of the federal government’s efforts to enhance accessibility for individuals with disabilities.
The report provides a framework for evaluating the effectiveness of accessibility initiatives across federal agencies and identifying areas that require improvement.
The report focuses on the accessibility of federal EIT and highlights the efforts made by agencies to improve accessibility for individuals with disabilities.
The Section 508 report is an essential tool for tracking progress and ensuring that federal agencies are meeting their obligations to provide accessible technology solutions.
Role of the Department of Justice
Section 508 requires the Attorney General to submit to the President and Congress reports containing information on and recommendations regarding the state of federal department and agency compliance with Section 508. Previously, there was a lack of transparency on the part of federal agencies to report on compliance issues.
On February 21, 2023, the Department of Justice and the General Services Administration (GSA) issued Section 508 Report to the President and Congress.
The Department of Justice and GSA have worked together to submit this report based on data from February, 2021 through August, 2022 that was collected and analyzed by GSA. This information sheds light on the degree to which federal agencies are making progress on compliance with Section 508.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires federal agencies to ensure that their information and communication technology (ICT) is accessible to people with disabilities.
All EIT developed, procured, maintained, or used by federal agencies has to be accessible to people with disabilities. The law was enacted to eliminate barriers to participation in federal programs and services by individuals with disabilities.
To ensure compliance with the Section 508 requirements, federal agencies are required to submit an annual Section 508 report to the U.S. Access Board. The Section 508 report provides a comprehensive overview of the agency’s progress in implementing accessible EIT solutions and meeting the requirements of the law.
How the Department of Justice is Prioritizing Accessibility of Electronic and Information Technology?
Webpage Conformance for CFO Act Agencies
The conformance of self-reported internet and intranet webpages was tested for CFO Act Agencies.
Risks as reported are:
- Agencies tested only 2.3% more Internet and Intranet pages since February 2022
- 3 CFO Act agencies (12.5%) are not testing Intranet pages
- Volatility of testing remains a barrier to accessible customer interactions and employee inclusion
- Data is not available to understand the testing sample size compared to the number of federal web pages
Webpage Accessibility Statements
In accordance with OMB’s Strategic Plan, federal agencies must maintain an accessibility statement that includes contact information, date of last update, and feedback mechanisms.
- Fifty-eight (58%) federal domains were recently audited for conformance with the requirements.
- 32 (55%) of the accessibility statements tested require remediation to meet requirements.
PDF Document Conformance
The General Services Administration tested PDF Document Conformance among CFO Act agencies between: February 2021-August 2022. A stark fact emerged from the report – 68% of PDFs do not meet PDF U/A and Section 508 standards!
This number is highly concerning because it demonstrates a lack of focus on the accessibility of digital documents uploaded on the federal agencies intranet and internet websites. The report also highlights the following issues with PDFs:
- 57% of all documents among the “top downloads” contain one or more accessibility issue.
- 74% of PDFs documents downloaded contain one or more accessibility issue requiring remediation.
- PDF documents are consistently non-conformant, with a high rate of untagged documents (73%).
- Volatility of PDF document conformance over time suggests poor policy and process controls.
77% untagged PDF documents did not have any kind of markup information that helps to make content accessible. This posed a challenge to people who rely on assistive technologies to access the written and visual information.
Improving the accessibility and conformance of PDF documents is essential for federal agencies to meet their legal obligations under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in legal action, fines, and damage to an agency’s reputation.
Standout Agencies complying with Section 508 standards
The following agencies have made great strides in Section 508 conformance:
- Department of Labor and Department of Education
- Department of Energy and Department of the Interior
- Office of Personnel Management and Department of Veterans Affairs
Recommendations to Agencies on Section 508 compliance
- Assess your Section 508 Program’s maturity
- Verify that policies and procedures ensure that accessible information is the default output
- Assess and train the right staff to support Program activities
- Evaluate all agency domains for accessibility statements that conform to requirements
- Identify and track the number of pages published on all agency website domains
- Revise guidance on testing web pages to improve consistency and standardization
- Identify and record conformance metrics for web pages, documents and other ICT
- Incorporate accessibility into executive and key workforce annual performance plans
- Require Accessibility Conformance Reports (ACR) for all ICT procurement
- Implement an agency-wide testing process for consistent, actionable results for all ICT
- Require agency-wide web testing processes align with the ICT Testing Baseline
- Require test results in decision making/change management and procurement reviews
- Require onboarding and annual Section 508 awareness training for employees and contractors
- Identify and train all individuals responsible for ensuring the accessibility of applications
- Increase the cadre of certified testers and subject matter experts within product teams
- Establish procedures for filing and processing of Section 508 complaints
The Section 508 Report focuses on ensuring that federal electronic and information technology (EIT) is accessible to all individuals, including those with disabilities. The report highlights the progress made in improving EIT accessibility in the federal government, but also identifies areas where further improvements can be made.
Overall, the report emphasizes the importance of accessibility in modern technology and the need for continued efforts to ensure that everyone has equal access to digital information and services.