GSA Government-wide Section 508 Accessibility Program

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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.

ICT vs EIT? - Nov 25, 2013

The existing standard uses the term, Electronic and Information Technology (EIT). This site uses Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to be consistent with world-wide terminology except in cases where there are citations from the FAR and other reference documents which use ICT.

Yes. Section 508 applies when Federal agencies "develop, procure, maintain, or use information and communication technology." Even if the agency is simply procuring a new version of an existing product, Section 508 applies. Section 508 requirements must be considered in the Brand Name justification and in the "or Equal" decision. It is a best practice to include Section 508 requirements in solicitation documentation for Brand Name or Equal, otherwise how are vendors able to propose products or services that equals the brand name?

Rehabilitation Act

The Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by Federal agencies, in programs receiving Federal financial assistance, in Federal employment, and in the employment practices of Federal contractors. The standards for determining employment discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act are the same as those used in title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Recently we received a comment that asked if software being developed had to be Section 508 conformant because no one in the organization had a disability. The answer is, "Yes, you still have to consider Section 508!" Here are a few reasons why: