GSA Government-wide Section 508 Accessibility Program

Section 508 Blog

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Is this site accessible? - Nov 25 , 2013

One of our highest priorities for this site is for it to be accessible. If you have any questions or concerns, please leave us a comment.

Accessibility Policy

  1. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act is a Federal procurement law that requires any EIT products or services that are "developed, procured, maintained, or used" by the Federal Government be accessible to persons with disabilities. It is more than just a procurement law.
  2. With strong support from the agency executive level, your agency can make sure that Section 508 compliance becomes part of your good business practices. What kind of support do you need?

Are you looking for assistance in ensuring your solicitation is compliant with Section 508? We can help.

How to Read a VPAT - Nov 25 , 2013

In a past post, we talked about how agencies need to ask for more VPATs. But what do you do with a VPAT once you have it? Just because a company has created a VPAT, doesn't mean that the product or service fully conforms to all Section 508 requirements. Here are some thing to watch out for:

What is a GPAT? - Nov 25 , 2013

When you use the BuyAccessible Wizard or Quick Links, one of the outputs you get is a Government Product/Service Accessibility Template (GPAT). A GPAT is a simple tool to assist Federal contracting and procurement officials in fulfilling the market research requirements associated with the Section 508 standards. The GPAT is intended as a form to be included with government solicitations.

The answer is that they are similar, but not the same. The Government Product/Services Accessibility Template (GPAT) reflects the government agency's accessibility requirements for the type of EIT they intend to buy. The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) reflects the accessibility features of the vendor's product. Requirements may or may not match features. Features may or may not match requirements.

Is a VPAT Voluntary? - Nov 25 , 2013

There is a misconception that Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPAT) are a problem because they are always voluntary. It is true that a company can decide to voluntarily create a VPAT and post it on their website. BUT, if a government agency requires a VPAT as part of their solicitation, then it is no longer voluntary. It becomes a requirement. The only voluntary part is whether or not the company wants to compete for that contract.

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.