Section 508 implementation dialogue separate from regulatory refresh

The Office of the Management and Budget says it's very close to publishing a strategic plan for Section 508 implementation across government, but before it does, the White House is seeking feedback through April 9 with a public dialogue.

A plan for improving the implementation of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires federal agencies to make electronic content and information technology accessible to people with disabilities, has been underway for some time. In July 2010, then Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra issued a memo (.pdf) saying agencies should make electronic government information more accessible. This was followed by a similar statement from the president a year later, in July 2011. The Federal CIO Council also held "listening sessions" on the topic of Section 508 implementation in March, June and September of 2011.

"That's where you come in. Before proceeding further with development of the strategic plan, we are seeking your input and expertise," wrote Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel and two other OMB officials in a joint March 19 blog post.

The crowdsourcing effort comes days after the Access Board closed the public comment period on the latest draft (.pdf) of the refresh of the regulation. But Tim Creagan, senior accessibility specialist at the Access Board, said this is merely a coincidence and the feedback provided in the White House dialogue will not inform the actual regulation. The OMB dialogue is focused on roles and responsibilities of agencies and stakeholders to facilitate greater 508 compliance across government.

"They're really two separate and complete things," explained Creagan. "If you look at it, the 508 refresh is statutorily required and it's something that the Access Board does periodically, per the Section 508 law."

Implementation of Section 508 has been a challenge in its own right. A study last year found, in a sample of 100 federal webpages, more than 90 percent had some violation of accessibility guidelines, with a total sample average of 2.27 violations per webpage.

Meanwhile, efforts to update the actual regulation have been underway since 2006. The latest draft (.pdf), which was published in December 2011, was actually a re-release of a March 2010 draft. That draft rule received almost 400 comments and major changes to the document required a second draft.

Since the latest comment period closed March 7, the Access Board will review the comments through Summer 2012. The board plans to submit the draft text of a notice of proposed rulemaking to OMB by Fall 2012, according to Creagan.

For more:
- read the White House blog post
- comment on the public forum
- download the latest Sec. 508 refresh draft (.pdf)

Related Articles:
Draft of Section 508 refresh out for comment
Study: Federal websites not Section 508 compliant
DOJ and GSA to monitor agency Section 508 compliance
Q&A: Tim Creagan on the 508 refresh and agency compliance