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Overview | Federal Final Rules | Federal IT Accessibility Initiatives | Assistive Technology Act Projects' Activities and Initiatives | Section 508 Organization Resources
In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act and strengthened provisions covering access to information in the Federal sector for people with disabilities. As amended, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires access to the Federal government's electronic and information technology. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Federal agencies must ensure that this technology is accessible to employees and the public. The law directs the Access Board to develop access standards that will become part of the Federal procurement regulations.
The scope of Section 508 is limited to the federal sector. It does not apply to the private sector, nor does Section 508 impose requirements on the recipients of federal funds. However, the Department of Education interprets the Assistive Technology Act (AT Act), to require states receiving assistance under the AT Act State Grant program to comply with Section 508, including the Access Board's standards. The Department of Education, the agency responsible for administering the AT Act, plans to issue guidance to explain specifically how the proposed standards would apply to the states for purposes of the AT Act. Thus, while Section 508, on its face, is "limited to the federal sector," recipients of federal funds under the AT Act must also comply with Section 508.
- Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (2001)
Section 508 requires that when federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, federal employees with disabilities have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access and use by federal employees who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency. Section 508 also requires that individuals with disabilities, who are members of the public seeking information or services from a federal agency, have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that provided to the public who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency.
Final Federal Rules
- Final Rules for Section 508 (December 21, 2000)
On December 21, 2000, the Access Board issued the Standards for Electronic and Information Technology. Under standards published by the Board, the Federal government will be in the forefront in ensuring access to electronic and information technology. These standards, the first of their kind in the Federal sector, cover various means of disseminating information, including computers, software, and electronic office equipment.
- Final FAR Rule for Section 508 (April 25, 2001)
The Civilian Agency Acquisition Council and the Defense Acquisition Regulations Council (Councils) have agreed on a final rule amending the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) to implement Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Subsection 508(a)(3) requires the FAR to be revised to incorporate standards developed by the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (also referred to as the "Access Board").
Effective Date: June 25, 2001.
Federal IT Accessibility Initiatives
- Federal Information Technology Accessibility Initiative (FITAI)
FITAI is a federal government interagency effort to offer information and technical assistance to assist in the successful implementation of Section 508. It offers a wealth of Section 508 resources, including the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) that assists federal contracting officials in fulfilling their acquisition planning responsibilities as identified in Section 508 and a Buy Accessible page to assist federal contracting officials with their purchases.
- 508 Agency Contacts
Many federal agencies have designated 508 coordinators who are involved in the necessary policy implementation. Questions about an agency's implementation plan should be directed to the appropriate coordinator.
Assistive Technology Act Projects' Activities and Initiatives
Section 508 Organization Resources
Resources listed in alphabetical order.
- Access Board
The Board developed the Section 508 standards under the Rehabilitation Act as amended by Congress in 1998. These standards, the first of their kind in the federal sector, cover various means of disseminating information, including computers, software, and electronic office equipment. They provide criteria that spell out what makes these products accessible to people with disabilities, including those with vision, hearing, and mobility impairments.
- Accessibility Forum
The General Services Administration (GSA) has launched the Accessibility Forum program to ensure that Electronic and Information Technology (E&IT;) are accessible to people with various disabilities. Information technologies promise people with disabilities exciting new opportunities to overcome traditional barriers, helping them lead richer lives and make a stronger impact in society. For this promise to be realized, there must be assurance that the technologies are truly accessible.
- DBTACs (Disabilty Business and Technical Assistance Centers)
The DBTACs are Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) training, technical assistance, public awareness, and systems change projects funded by the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. There are ten DBTACs, one in every geographic region of the country. In collaboration with the Information Technology Technical Assistance and Training Center (ITTATC), the DBTACs will train consumer advocates in techniques of working with managers to create new understandings that will lead to a culture that produces better products and services. The DBTACs will also disseminate training materials developed by CRT and WID in collaboration with the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to industry, consumers, and government about the requirements for accessible products mandated by Section 508 and Section 255.
- Information Technology Association of America
The ITAA web site provides information about the IT industry, its issues, association programs, publications, meetings, seminars and more...plus links to other valuable web sites. ITAA provides a Section 508 page, which offers information on training, conferences, etc.
- Information Technology Industry Council (ITI)
The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) represents the leading U.S. providers of information technology products and services. ITI provides a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) that assists federal contracting officials in fulfilling their acquisition planning responsibilities as identified in Section 508. The VPAT is a work in progress and will continue to be refined based on new technologies and feedback from government and industry users.
- Information Technology Technical Assistance and Training Center (ITTATC)
The ITTATC project joins Georgia Tech's Center for Rehabilitation Technology (CRT); the Trace Center at the University of Wisconsin (TRACE); the World Institute for Disability (WID); Community Options Inc. (COI); Inclusive Technologies, Inc. (ITI); the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA); and the Department of Education's Disability & Business Technical Assistance Centers (DBTAC) to inform industry, government, and consumers about Sections 255 and 508 and to develop and provide quality training on product and service design methods that will make technology accessible to all members of society.
- Trace Center (College of Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
The Trace Research & Development Center is a part of the College of Engineering, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Founded in 1971, Trace has been a pioneer in the field of technology and disability. The Trace Center offers training and resources on Section 508.
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