GSA Government-wide Section 508 Accessibility Program

Successful GSA August 18 Accessibility Event

Thu, 08/20/2015 - 12:54 -- BuyAccessible Team

Helen Chamberlain, Governmentwide Section 508 Training & Outreach Director, General Services Administration

On August 18, 2015 ​at the National Science Foundation in Arlington Virginia, GSA's Governmentwide Section 508 Program hosted one of a series of six annual ​Section 508 ​community events. The August event focused on Mobile, Social Media, and Google accessibility.

It was structured to provide​ an​ in-depth learning ​experience regarding current accessibility issues, solutions and approaches​. This all-day training session showcased experts and practitioners from across the Federal Government and private industry. After a well-attended 8am Networking session, 160+ in-person and virtual attendees participated in three training sessions.

Mobile Apps and Accessibility

​A panel moderated by Earl McJett, FDIC; ​with industry experts Eric Wright and Sam Joehl, the panelists discussed some key ​aspects regarding the difference​s​ in designing accessibly for mobile versus designing accessibly​ for desktop applications.

  • Different forms of input that can be used, keyboard v. touch interface.
  • Different gestures, that the user can control gestures so that for example, controls aren't activated when you touch them, but when you lift your finger.
  • Awareness of screen size and real estate.

Additional discussion included

  • Issues with the use of placeholder text in fields, convenient for small devices, but also poorly accessible.
  • Using breakpoints in mobile design.
  • The merits of serving separate pages for mobile devices, versus responsive web design.
  • Accessible Rich Internet Application (ARIA) standards applicability to mobile platforms.

Social Media and Accessibility

A panel moderated by Eduardo Meza with subject matter expert Debra Ruh, GSA's Angela Hooker and Victoria Bitzer-Wales. The panelists emphasized the relevance and importance of social media as "where the audience is," and outlined challenges as social media becomes more media rich and dynamic. The panel focused on the special challenges facing the federal government when using social media, including the need to be responsible, as well as responsive, and to be highly inclusive.

Focus was given to the fact that social media platforms are not necessarily fully accessible, or do not support robust accessibility or all forms of assistive technology, and the question of whether or not the federal government should withhold interaction on those platforms.

A strong tip was that social media should​ always​ relate back to solid information on agency websites.

Google Platform

​The afternoon session focused on accessibility on the widely used Google platform, presented by, Roger Benz, Laura Palmaro, and Eve Anderson of Google.

A series of demonstrations helped the Federal audience understand recent accessibility developments on Google platforms, including Google Drive, Google documents, Google sheets and Google slide.

For Feds using Google apps in the workplace the panelists strongly suggested the Google Apps User Accessibility Guide for further resources.

Enhancements to GSA Section 508 Website

In conclusion GSA's Helen Chamberlain and Gordon Dean presented a well received overview of community-driven navigation changes, enhancements and updates to the GSA Section508.gov site, discussing both current enhancements, especially improved subject matter organization, and ongoing efforts to involve the Accessibility Community in enhancing the site.

These events are open to Federal and State government employees only at no charge. The next event in this series will be October 8. It will be an overview of the WCAG 2.0 and how it will affect the way we develop and test applications, websites, electronic communications and much more. Stay tuned for more information.