GSA Government-wide Section 508 Accessibility Program

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The biggest problem with buying accessible Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the Federal government isn't bad VPATs (or other 508 conformance documentation); it is the fact that we don't even ask most of the time! As part of GSA's sampling of FedBizOpps solicitations, we check to see if agencies request a VPAT from vendors when they are trying to procure ICT. In our sampling, we found that only 6% of the time do agencies ask for a VPAT. The fix?

There has been some confusion regarding Sole Source solicitations and Section 508 compliance. The FAR is very clear that Section 508 should be considered in ALL solicitations, with the following exceptions: National Security, ICT acquired incidental to a contract, "back office", and Undue Burden (FAR Subpart 39.2 Information and Communication Technology). Undue Burden can only be claimed after the agency has conducted accessibility market research to determine that it would create a significant hardship on the agency.

It is important to remember that Section 508 standards apply not only to the procurement of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), but also to its use. This means that freeware is subject to Section 508 standards even if acquiring it did not require formal procurement. All or most Federal Agencies do not allow the installation of applications on Government IT equipment without authorization of system administrators.

ICT vs EIT? - Nov 25, 2013

The existing standard uses the term, Electronic and Information Technology (EIT). This site uses Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to be consistent with world-wide terminology except in cases where there are citations from the FAR and other reference documents which use ICT.

Yes. Section 508 applies when Federal agencies "develop, procure, maintain, or use information and communication technology." Even if the agency is simply procuring a new version of an existing product, Section 508 applies. Section 508 requirements must be considered in the Brand Name justification and in the "or Equal" decision. It is a best practice to include Section 508 requirements in solicitation documentation for Brand Name or Equal, otherwise how are vendors able to propose products or services that equals the brand name?

Rehabilitation Act

The Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by Federal agencies, in programs receiving Federal financial assistance, in Federal employment, and in the employment practices of Federal contractors. The standards for determining employment discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act are the same as those used in title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Section 508 certification doesn't exist. Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPAT) are the best way for vendors to provide accessibility information to the government.

Recently we received a comment that asked if software being developed had to be Section 508 conformant because no one in the organization had a disability. The answer is, "Yes, you still have to consider Section 508!" Here are a few reasons why:

Besides identifying the applicable Section 508 provisions, there are additional ways to get a congratulations letter from the GSA about the extent to which your FedBizOpps solicitation considers Section 508. You should include Section 508 in your acceptance criteria and evaluation factors. Evaluations should be based in part on the proposal responsiveness to the identified Section 508 requirements and considerations for accessibility.

Want to know how to get a congratulations letter from the GSA about the extent to which your FedBizOpps solicitation considers Section 508? At a minimum, determine the applicable Section 508 provisions and include them in your solicitation. This includes identifying the specific technical provisions from 1194 Subpart B Technical Provisions. Subpart C Functional Performance Criteria always apply. Subpart D Information, Documentation, and Support almost always apply when you are buying EIT.

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