GSA Government-wide Section 508 Accessibility Program

Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2017

The Government-wide Section 508 Program at GSA is pleased to recognize Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) today, May 18th. For many of us in the accessibility community, we celebrate the mission of making technology accessible and usable by persons with disabilities in both our lives and work.

For those who are not immersed in the accessibility universe, the Global Accessibility Awareness Day is a community-driven effort that evolved from an idea within a 2011 blog post. It has grown into a day recognized annually, around the world, dedicated to increasing awareness of digital accessibility to the broadest audience possible. It has been an exciting year for accessibility, with the Access Board publishing the Section 508 final rule on January 18, 2017. The revision of standards for electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by Federal agencies was a big step forward.

The new Section 508 rule aligns the US Government’s Section 508 requirements with the prevailing international accessibility Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0). Other countries and industries already align to WCAG 2.0, and this update ensures that the United States is using the prevailing international standards. A greater harmonization of standards makes increasing awareness easier and helps us all to talk, think, and learn about accessibility in common and understandable ways across the globe.

The accessibility of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) removes barriers that exist in the physical world for the wide-ranging abilities of people who use the Web, but people can still encounter new challenges if websites are not well designed. Those with visual disabilities need web pages to be usable by screen reading and screen magnification technology. Hard-of-hearing or deaf individuals need videos to be close captioned so that they can receive audible content. Those with limited mobility, even as simple as a sprained wrist, need to be able to interact with web pages smoothly using their keyboards instead of a mouse.

Accessibility is important to those of all ages, backgrounds, education, and economic levels. It also affects under-recognized groups such as our veterans, returning wounded warriors, and baby boomers transitioning into different stages of ability after life-related changes to hearing, vision, cognition, and mobility.

GSA, as designated by the President, is the federal agency responsible for managing Section 508 implementation throughout the acquisition lifecycle. GSA, along with the Accessibility Subcommittee of the Chief Information Officers Council, conducts interagency analysis to improve collaboration across agencies, reduce redundancies, and develop solutions and recommendations for improving Section 508 management across the Federal Government. In addition to the support we provide today, GSA will soon offer guidance on the revised Section 508 standards of the Rehabilitation Act, including training, tools, and communication resources.

How to Stay Involved with Section 508 and Accessibility