Section 508. Protecting Disabled Veterans.
In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities. The law (29 U.S.C § 794 (d)) applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Under Section 508, agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information comparable to the access available to others.
Section 508 covers technology procured by a federal agency under contract with a private entity or produced within the agency itself. It applies to all EIT including software, web sites, web applications, and hardware applications such as computers, networks, peripherals, and other types of electronic office equipment. EIT is defined as “any equipment or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment that is used in the automatic acquisition, storage, manipulation, management, movement, control, display, switching, interchange, transmission, or reception of data or information.”
On January 18, 2017, revised Information and Communication Technology (ICT) standards and guidelines created by the U.S. Access Board were published in the Federal Register. The rule updated and reorganized the Section 508 Standards and Section 255 Guidelines in response to market trends and innovations in technology. The refresh also harmonized these requirements with other guidelines and standards both in the U.S. and abroad, including standards issued by the European Commission, and with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), a globally recognized voluntary consensus standard for web content and ICT. This means WCAG 2.0 conformance requirements are used to measure compliance of documents, web content, and software (when applicable) for Section 508. In addition, for software and mobile apps, needs to be taken into consideration when determining compliance with Section 508.
Federal agencies had to comply with the new Section 508 standards by January 18, 2018, one year following the publication of the standards. VA Directive 6221 provides VA-wide policy to ensure that VA employees and members of the general public with disabilities have access to and use of VA’s ICT comparable to that provided to non-disabled persons. This includes the 3.8 million veterans in the United States with service-connected disabilities. The VA has a Section 508 Office which Processes Section 508 Conformance document submissions; Audits and validates ICT for compliance with Section 508 standards and policies; Provides support to project managers by offering tools, training, and support; and) and makes department-wide policy recommendations regarding Section 508 issues. If you believe the VA is not complying with Section 508, you can Contact VA Section 508 by email at Section508@va.gov or by phone at 202-461-0508 between the hours of 8:00am – 4:00pm EST.
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