The purpose of the Assessment is twofold:
- To improve transparency, accountability, and trust regarding Section 508 compliance, fulfilling specific reporting requirements under the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023.
- To address the critical need for accessible information and communications technology (ICT) in the Federal Government, particularly recognizing its impact on persons with disabilities (PWD).
Addressing the Government-wide Need for Accessible ICT
In the United States, one in four adults live with disabilities. That translates to approximately 61 million Americans who have disabilities regarding mobility, cognition, hearing, and vision that impact major activities in their lives. As the federal government modernizes important public services, equitable digital access can and does play a critical role in the livelihoods and well-being of PWD. The COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the federal government unlocking the “virtual front door” to many of its services, further escalated the importance of equitable digital access for PWD. Although government web content is generally more accessible than web content from other sectors, 48% of popular federal government websites do not fully conform to Section 508 standards. Additionally, according to self-reported data from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) 2022 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS), PWD represent 17% of the federal workforce. A recent study by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also found that, while federal agencies are improving ICT accessibility for federal employees, employees with disabilities remain underrepresented within federal leadership and are more likely than persons without disabilities to leave federal employment. Thus, digital access to federal government services and federal employment continues to present challenges for PWD.
To better understand and address the need for accessible ICT within the federal government, the Assessment aims to establish a new baseline for determining Section 508 compliance, with a broader scope than the Program Maturity Report (PMR) and greater depth and frequency than the Section 508 Report to the President and Congress: Accessibility of Federal Electronic and Information Technology. The ever-changing landscape of ICT demands a broader, deeper, and more frequent approach to assessing Section 508 compliance and helping agencies meet the statutory requirements established by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and the regulatory requirements of the ICT Standards and Guidelines.
Meeting the Reporting Requirements of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023
On December 29, 2022, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 became law. It mandated new requirements for OMB, GSA, and the Access Board to collect and report on federal agency data on ICT accessibility.
Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 Section 752
To meet the requirements of (a)(2)(B), “agency” has been defined to mean federal department, component-level, and independent agencies subject to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Throughout this document, “reporting entity” is used to denote respondents to this Assessment.
OMB, in close coordination with GSA, the Access Board, OSTP, and the DOJ developed the 105 Assessment criteria used to evaluate reporting entity Section 508 compliance. In tandem, GSA gathered feedback from the broader federal ICT accessibility community to refine Assessment instructions and criteria. GSA also developed additional context for understanding the criteria, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), and defining terms to help reporting entities collect data for the Assessment.
OMB broadly distributed instructions and the 105 Assessment criteria to heads of agencies, agency CIOs, and Section 508 program managers (PM) on April 7, 2023, pursuant to the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023. Additionally, GSA posted instructions and criteria on Section508.gov the same day. Responding entities coordinated with OMB to define how they would report: by organizational unit or “reporting entity,” individually, or as a component of a larger parent agency.3 Reporting entities then designated a point of contact for the Assessment. GSA referenced and maintained, at the direction of OMB, a list of reporting entities and information for each point of contact.
GSA then developed and released an online tool for each designated point of contact to submit Assessment responses. In the leadup to the August 11, 2023 deadline for data submissions, GSA held 19 open office sessions to answer questions about the Assessment.
As GSA uses reporting entity data to support evidence-based decision making, we will continue to evaluate and improve data quality. Following guidelines in the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology’s “A Framework for Data Quality,” and in coordination with internal data quality initiatives, GSA will identify key challenges and strategies to continually improve data quality and data collection in future years.
This Assessment report is organized into four main sections:
Background summarizes relevant federal law and policy related to the advancement of ICT accessibility and Section 508 compliance.
Findings highlight governmentwide and reporting entity specific trends found in the Section 508 compliance data using the previously described methods.
Recommendations propose ways to improve Section 508 compliance that are based on statistical analysis of reporting entity data and contextual knowledge.
Appendices provide a detailed explanation of terms and acronyms, federal initiatives regarding ICT accessibility, analytical methods and comprehensive responses by reporting entities.
- Reporting entity denotes a respondent to the Assessment. This report uses the term “reporting entity” rather than “agency” or “component” as traditionally defined because reporting entity Section 508 Programs may be organized and function outside of these traditional definitions. ↩
Reviewed/Updated: December 2023