Agencies' Section 508 compliance mixed, survey finds

Thursday - 9/13/2012, 3:52pm EDT

A Justice Department survey finds agencies have made some progress in making technology accessible to employees with disabilities but still have room for improvement when it comes to training and procurement.

Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires agencies eliminate potential barriers in electronic and information technology to people with disabilities.

DoJ is supposed to monitor agencies' compliance with Section 508; however, the last survey was conducted in 2003. This survey included responses from 89 agencies.

The DoJ survey found:

  • A little more than 50 percent of agency components said they had established a Section 508 policy.

  • Nearly 70 percent had appointed a Section 508 coordinator.

  • Nearly 60 percent did not provide Section 508 training to their staff.

  • Less than 50 percent incorporated Section 508 requirements in each procurement solicitations.

Among its recommendations, DoJ said agencies should provide Section 508 training to its staff, develop procurement policies in line with Section 508 and regularly test products and websites for compliance.

The survey found lack of resources, awareness and training were the most common challenges in complying with Section 508. Fifteen percent of agency components said they could not identify any challenges to 508 compliance.

"It is not terribly difficult or expensive to ensure that technology is accessible, but accessibility has often been an afterthought," said Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division at DoJ, in a release. "Modifying existing technology to make it accessible is much more difficult and much more expensive than designing technology in an accessible manner in the first place."

The Access Board is finalizing revisions to Section 508 standards to reflect changes in technology over the last decade. The last major revision was in 2001.

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