GSA Government-wide Section 508 Accessibility Program

Hacking Away at Accessibility: GSA Hosts Accessibility Hackathon

GSA's 18F program office was the host on Tuesday, March 31st to an Accessibility Hackathon (#allyhack) sponsored by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; GSA's 18F; National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research; and DC Legal Hackers.
The event was open to Federal Government, non-profit, and private sector attendees, who packed the room – an indication of the depth of interest and commitment to accessibility.

The spirit of a hackathon is creative, solution focused and collaborative, and this one was no exception. The hackathon is an event where a group of techies come together to harness the best of one another and the collective wisdom of the group to build, solve, and play.

The aim of this hackathon was to explore methods for ensuring that Federal websites are accessible to everyone — individuals who are visually impaired, hearing impaired, or have mobility issues. It brought those working on and living in the accessibility arena together to raise and solve technology issues related to accessibility, from 3D printed augmentations to Federal procurement policy. Presenters included a wide range of subject matter experts conducting TED-style talks and demos, as well as hands-on lab activities.

During the event, attendees could also use the hackpad, a space where individuals can collaborate and connect in an interactive way. Hackpad topics included education, resources, open data and everyday web, among others. Attendees raised pertinent issues and thoughts via the hackpad such as:

  • “Is there any way to automate the evaluation of contract/proposal language to either determine if a contract is 508-compliant or to limit the number of contracts that need to be manually evaluated?”
  • “Standardization for e-learning accessibility content is needed.”
  • “Is there a way to break down barriers and help those who need it learn to use 3D printing hardware software quickly to begin assistive design work?”

Other takeaway highlights included the demonstration and investigation of open source tools for testing against WCAG2 content guidelines such as the Pa11y website scanner, the HTML Codesniffer, and other open source data analysis tools which can help to improve compliance across the Federal Portfolio.

A summary of the event, along with useful links and resources can be found at,