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Recent and Upcoming GSA Efforts to Improve Section 508 Compliance: Recent GSA Efforts to Support Section 508 Compliance

Recent GSA Efforts to Support Section 508 Compliance

To meet the requirements of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023, the following describes GSA’s efforts to help entities collect and submit their Assessment data and other related efforts to improve federal Section 508 compliance from December 29, 2022 up to date of publication.

OMB – in close coordination with GSA, the Access Board and OSTP – developed the 105 Assessment criteria used to evaluate Section 508 compliance. In tandem, GSA gathered feedback from the broader federal ICT accessibility community to refine future guidance and criteria and developed additional context for understanding the Assessment criteria, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), and definition of terms to help reporting entities collect data. As GSA developed and conducted the Assessment, it also led the following activities to improve Section 508 compliance within the past year:

Policy and Best Practices

  • GSA regularly maintains and improves this website (Section508.gov) as the central body of role-based information to help federal agencies incorporate accessibility into mission and IT-lifecycle activities. This governmentwide hub provides robust content, tools, best practices, and training to all stakeholders in ICT accessibility. Selected content focuses on:

    • Policy, Management, and General Information

    • Acquisition

    • Content Creation

    • Design & Development

    • ICT Accessibility Testing, 

    • Training, Tools, and Accessibility Events, and

    • Agency Section 508 PM list

  • In coordination with the Accessibility Community of Practice (ACOP), GSA is helping create agency best practices on how to obtain and evaluate Accessibility Conformance Reports (ACRs) to facilitate the procurement of Section 508 conformant ICT in the federal marketplace. This includes developing a new methodology for capturing standard conformance: the OpenACR. The OpenACR has the same information contained in the traditional format, but instead of creating a conformance report in a PDF or Microsoft Word document, OpenACR outputs a fully Section 508-conformant, machine-readable web format (JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) or HyperText Markup Language (HTML)). Agencies can better share and compare conformance reports, and it allows for an easier, more repeatable acquisition review process.

  • GSA facilitated focus groups and interviews with the ACOP and other stakeholders to produce and provide recommendations to OMB for updates to Section 508 guidance and the 2013 OMB “Strategic Plan for Improving Management of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.” These recommendations targeted the most impactful and most pressing accessibility concerns. A refresh in this guidance, issued 10 years ago, will incorporate the present accessibility considerations and needs of agencies while also taking into account more recent legislation, Executive Orders, updates to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), the 21st Century IDEA, and the 2018 updates to Section 508, among others.32

Strategic Engagement

  • GSA identified content gaps on this website (Section508.gov) through focus group sessions in the IT Accessibility Community Meeting (ACM), the CX Community of Practice (CoP), GSA inreach and other targeted stakeholder analysis. GSA bridged these gaps through the publication of new content articles on the website or update of existing content. Highlights include articles on how PWD use ICT, the benefits of accessible design, agency Section 508 program reporting requirements, governmentwide and GSA internal DEIA efforts, and roles and responsibilities from web developers to program managers to executives.

  • GSA participated in key government and external forums for ICT accessibility, which includes:

    • Annually co-sponsoring and leading the planning for the Interagency Accessibility Forum (IAAF): an annual three-day gathering of government and industry professionals from the U.S. and abroad to discuss, train and advance accessibility considerations. [November 2023]

    • In collaboration with Access Board, presenting at the 2023 California State University, Northridge (CSUN) Assistive Technology Conference on the ICT Testing Baseline Portfolio and Alignment Framework and Fed Talk, a live-streamed presentation on the guidance, interpretation, and implementation of the revised Section 508 standards, as well as recurring issues with Section 508 compliance. [January 2023]

    • Presenting with the Access Board and moderating a panel at the 2023 M-Enabling Summit with the Executive Director of the Access Board and OSTP’s Assistant Director for Accessibility regarding the Assessment and Executive Branch’s accessibility priorities. The M-Enabling Summit is an “all-inclusive conference and showcase dedicated to fostering innovations, solutions, and strategies for digital inclusion.”33 [October 2023]

    • Presenting at the 2023 ICT Testing Symposium on OpenACR, the ICT Baseline Portfolio (in collaboration with Access Board), and facilitated a panel with Access Board on the annual Assessment, detailing the approach, development, and significance of the Assessment criteria. [November 2023]

  • Leading regular, recurring governmentwide meetings for collaboration, training and knowledge-sharing of accessibility information and considerations. This includes:

    • Section 508/IT Accessibility Community of Practice (SEC508ITAC) email listserv, with over 1,300 subscribers, facilitates collaboration and resource-sharing across federal, state, and local governments, as well as academia, who are focused on building better digital experience in government. SEC508ITAC is one 30 COPs available at Digital.gov/communities.

    • Bimonthly Section 508 Program Manager Huddle, with support from Access Board, provides federal Section 508 PMs an open, agenda-free forum to discuss and collaborate on building and maintaining effective Section 508 programs.

    • Bimonthly IT Accessibility Community Meeting, in cooperation with the Access Board and ACOP Education Subcommittee, provides information and guidance on Section 508 implementation to federal accessibility professionals, practitioners, and members of the SEC508ITAC.

Technical Assistance, Tools, and Training

  • Development and release of the IT Accessibility Policy Framework to harmonize how federal agencies assess their internal policies against Section 508 requirements and update these policies with IT accessibility language. Recommended policies were central to this effort as agencies can insert verbatim language into their internal policies, advancing digital accessibility and equity across the federal government. The framework will help agencies provide broader awareness of how and where to include accessibility in their programs, which will result in digital accessibility becoming a more integral part of agency-wide business functions and decision-making. [April 2023]

  • Ongoing ICT Testing Baseline for Web development – including new test cases that align to the baseline – to standardize web accessibility testing in the federal government. By the end of FY23, GSA, in collaboration with the Access Board, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Social Security Administration (SSA), completed 160 test cases. Baseline implementation will allow agencies to better and more consistently test their websites for accessibility conformance. In the future, GSA intends to develop additional baselines for documents, hardware and software.

  • Modernization of the Accessibility Requirement Tool (ART) to be more user friendly. ART is an ICT procurement tool that helps agencies incorporate ICT accessibility requirements into procurements and has gained 6,200 new users since the modernization launch in May 2023. Modernization efforts included:

  • Reduced time to complete a procurement flow by 50%.

  • Ability to to save a completed form or review in multiple formats.

  • Ability to work on multiple ICTs at once.

  • Ability to save incomplete procurement document and resume where you left off.

  • Availability from Section508.gov on desktop and mobile devices.

  • Availability as open source on GitHub, which enables ART to be integrated with other platforms and software.

  • Comprehensive Glossary.

  • Increased the number of Section 508 compliant solicitations on SAM.gov through use of the AI-powered Solicitation Review Tool (SRT). GSA exceeded its FY23 target goal of 10% solicitations compliance, tracking a 10.48% increase since FY22. There are currently 70 SRT users across 26 agencies. Over the past year, the SRT development team has overhauled and reconfigured the tool’s User Interface and User Experience; increased security measures and removed all vulnerabilities around SRT updated machine-learning algorithms for natural language processing; and cleaned up and migrated all open source repositories for easier public use.

  • Ongoing OpenACR Editor development to help commercial and government vendors create machine-readable ACRs for ICT products and services. This also includes ongoing OpenACR Repository development, which facilitates easier integration of accessibility conformance considerations in all federal ICT acquisitions through a centralized, publicly-facing, and searchable repository of ACRs. GSA began developing the OpenACR Editor, which included determining business and technical requirements, back-end development, and establishing an application programming interface (API). Front-end development of the editor is slated to begin Quarter 1 of FY24.

  • Development and release of new training courses, including Soliciting and Evaluating Accessibility Conformance Reports in Federal ICT Procurement, Microsoft Word and Accessibility Best Practices, and Introduction to the Accessibility Requirements Tool (ART). Additionally, GSA redesigned and modernized the Section 508: What It Is and Why It’s Important?, with the new training released in early 2023. 

  • Presentations, training requests, and technical assistance to agencies. Key highlights include:

  • Hosted, in collaboration with the Access Board, 19 “office hours” meetings between April and August, to offer additional guidance to reporting entities preparing reports for this Assessment.

  • Consultations with AbilityOne Commission in improving the accessibility of their presentations and documentation.

  • IT Accessibility Policy Framework discussion with Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and Section 508 PMs (over 180 attendees) [September 2023]

  • As part of the ART modernization rollout, GSA presented ART training to over 1,000 federal employees across 11 agencies. [May-June 2023]

  • Upon notification of designation, per OMB guidance, GSA provides each new agency Section 508 PM with information to help them become familiar with Section 508, associated standards, and guidance and resources available on Section508.gov that can aid them in their new role. Additionally, each new PM is subscribed to the SEC508ITAC listserv, invited to participate in bi-monthly PM Huddles, and provided GSA’s contact information for technical assistance. Approximately 96 PMs and their backups across 24 organizations reported the new role designation during the Assessments reporting period. Not all reporting entities have notified GSA of a designated Section 508 Program Manager or are publicly listed.


Reviewed/Updated: December 2023

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