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Government-wide Section 508 Assessment Definition of Terms

The following terms are referenced by reporting criteria of the annual Government-wide Section 508 Assessment. For terms relating to Section 508, see Glossary of Section 508 Terms.

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  • Agency: In this context, it refers to all federal departments, agencies, and the U.S. Postal Service governed by Section 508.

  • Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR) – or equivalent: A representation of how the product meets applicable Section 508 technical standards, typically using the VPAT® template or a test report.

  • Accessibility Policy: Policy for implementing Section 508 or Information and Communication Technology (ICT) accessibility requirements.

  • Accessibility Statement: The statement on the reporting entity’s primary website, including a number of requirements per “Strengthening Digital Accessibility and the Management of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act“ (M-24-08), including contact information and method for providing feedback on your website’s accessibility. For additional examples, and directions on accessibility statements, see “Developing a Website Accessibility Statement” on

  • Alternative Format: Different ways to present printed information, such as braille, large print, audio, and electronic versions.

  • Alternative Means Plan: Documentation that establishes a framework and outlines the strategies for meeting the access needs of people with disabilities until the identified Section 508 compliance defects are remediated. The recommended workarounds and accommodations provided in the plan will ensure people with disabilities can continue to use the product. May be referred to as “Accommodation Plan.”

  • Affinity Group: A community for employees with disabilities or health conditions, and their allies.

  • Agency Official Communication: [see E205.3] Electronic content that is not public facing and constitutes official business in one or more of the following categories:

    1. An emergency notification

    2. An initial or final decision adjudicating an administrative claim or proceeding

    3. An internal or external program or policy announcement

    4. A notice of benefits, program eligibility, employment opportunity, or personnel action

    5. A formal acknowledgement of receipt

    6. A survey questionnaire

    7. A template or form

    8. Educational or training materials

    9. Intranet content designed as a Web page

  • Almost always: Refers to actions performed approximately 90% of the time or more.

  • Authentication Services: Systems or mechanisms that verify user identity, including two-factor authentication such as logins, email or text verification, or RSA tokens.


  • Business Needs: The necessary requirements, resources, or approaches an organization must identify and utilize to achieve its objectives through project implementation, operational changes, and procurement of goods and services.


  • Capital Planning and Investment Control (CPIC): A systematic approach to ensure IT investments align with overall business goals and deliver value.

  • Closed Functionality: Features that limit functionality or prevent a user from attaching or installing assistive technology. Examples of ICT with closed functionality are self-service machines, information kiosks, set-top boxes, fax machines, calculators, and computers that are locked down so users may not adjust settings due to a policy such as Desktop Core Configuration.

  • Communication: The method used to disseminate information to internal and external audiences.

  • Complaint: An alleged Section 508 non-compliance violation in which a federal employee, applicant for federal employment, or member of the public with a disability initiates the process to begin adjudication of the accessibility issue(s) in a federally conducted program or activity. An Administrative Complaint is a formal complaint made by “any individual with a disability…alleging that a Federal department or agency fails to comply with subsection (a)(1) in providing electronic and information technology” (§794d. Electronic and information technology (f)(1)(A)) (i.e., fails to provide accessible ICT). Administrative complaints are “filed with the Federal department or agency alleged to be in non-compliance. The Federal department or agency receiving the complaint shall apply the complaint procedures established to implement section 794 of this title for resolving allegations of discrimination in a federally conducted program or activity.” (§794d. Electronic and information technology (f)(2)). Lawsuits and civil actions are other types of complaints. Agencies may utilize their internal Section 504/501 complaints process and may need to coordinate with other reporting entity personnel to fully gather this information (DOJ Civil Rights Division iii. Administrative Complaints).

    Complaints differ from public feedback responses your reporting entity receives through the mechanism provided to meet theOMB 2013 Strategic Plan for Improving Management of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Public feedback responses could escalate to a complaint, but submission of feedback is not inherently considered a complaint.

  • Comprehensive, large-scale monitoring: A systematic and thorough process of evaluating digital content, platforms, or environments to ensure they adhere to required standards or guidelines.

  • Conform (also Conformance/Conformant): Adherence to Section 508 standards, indicating full conformance. See Fully Conform. Synonymous with Conformant.

  • Continuity of Operations: The ability of an agency to maintain essential functions during emergencies.

  • Contractor: An individual or entity contracted by the government to provide services, material, equipment, or supplies. IT accessibility contractors may perform services such as testing, remediation, development, and training. Contractors may or may not be issued government furnished equipment and they may or may not work onsite at federal agencies.

  • Coordinator (also Section 508 Coordinator): Another term for a Section 508 Program Manager. See Section 508 Program Manager


  • Deploying: The act of making a solution available or operational.

  • Digital Content: All types of electronic information, including multimedia, electronic documents, social media, and web content. See also Electronic Content.

  • Dimension: Within the Assessment, used to delineate a category of Maturity-related questions.

  • Document: Files created with common office software for content generation and information sharing, such as Microsoft Word (DOCX), PowerPoint (PPTX), Excel (XLSX), and Portable Document Format (PDF).


  • E-Government line of business: Intra-agency collaborations for digital government services. See OMB M-04-08.

  • Electronic Content: All forms of digital data and its encoding, covering both public and internal information as defined by E205 of the Section 508 Standards.

  • Extranet: A network restricted to authorized individuals. For the purposes of this Assessment, extranet is included in questions related to internet web pages.


  • Feedback loop: A method for integrating stakeholder feedback into refining processes, policies, and procedures.

  • Fillable form: Refers to digital content such as a web page, electronic document such as a PDF, or other user interface that allows users to input data directly into designated fields with the intent to collect data. Exclude singular form fields such as a “Search” field where there is no intent to collect data. For the purpose of Assessment Question 87, only consider fillable forms that require a Paperwork Reduction Act clearance.

  • Formal: Officially approved or recognized.

  • Frequency: Defines activity occurrence levels, not on a linear scale, as follows:
    • Never (0%),
    • Sometimes (approximately 1%-24%),
    • Regularly (approximately 25%-59%),
    • Frequently (approximately 60%-89%),
    • Almost always (approximately 90% or more).
  • Frequently: Activities that are performed approximately 60%-89% of the time.

  • FTE or Full-time Equivalent: A measure of employee hours equivalent to full-time work, including all paid hours.

  • Fully conform: Requires that an entire ICT product meets every applicable Section 508 standard. For example, for a web page to fully conform to Section 508, the entire web page must meet all applicable 38 WCAG Level A and AA Success Criteria.


  • Government off-the-shelf (GOTS): Product that is developed with funding and specificity from a government agency.


  • Information and Communication Technology: Information technology and other equipment, systems, technologies, or processes for which the principal function is the creation, manipulation, storage, display, receipt, or transmission of electronic data and information, as well as any associated content. Examples of ICT include but are not limited to: computers and peripheral equipment, information kiosks and transaction machines, telecommunications equipment, customer premises equipment, multifunction office machines, software, applications, websites, videos, and electronic documents.

  • ICT accessibility: Term used interchangeably with Section 508 standards, IT accessibility, and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, but could also refer to the accessibility of ICT in more general terms than only conformance to particular accessibility standards.

  • Internet: A network of information accessible by the public. For the purposes of this assessment, extranet should be reported under internet-related questions.

  • Intranet: A private or internal network within an organization used for but not limited to: a central repository, collaboration, communication, access to information, social networking, project management, and streamlining of everyday activities and operations.


  • Kiosk: A closed functionality device providing information or services on a digital screen that is locked down so users may not adjust settings nor install or attach assistive technology.


  • Lifecycle (life cycle): Phases a product goes through, including development, operation, and management. For this Assessment, the term typically refers to the phases of a product, including budgeting, procurement, development, testing, operation, content creation, and change management.


  • Manage: To oversee or control processes or functions.

  • Measure: A method to assess the quality, effect, importance, etc.

  • Mid-level management: Managers between executive and front-line levels guiding teams or departments.


  • Open Government Data Asset: In general, a data asset that is machine-readable and available in an open, standards-based format. See 44 USC. 3502 (20)



  • Regularly: Activities that are performed approximately 25% to 59% of the time.

  • Reimbursable service: An agreement in which one agency provides ICT services to another and is then reimbursed for these services.

  • Risk: Potential for harm, loss, or damage within the IT sector that unfavorably impacts systems, processes, and associated resources within an organization. Risk typically encompasses legal, financial, technological, and workforce challenges.

  • Ruleset: A collection of rules used by automated tools to identify accessibility issues. May also be called rules, accessibility checks, or library.


  • Section 508 conformant: The entire ICT product meets all applicable Section 508 standards. For example, for a web page to be conformant, the entire web page must meet all applicable 38 WCAG Level A and AA Success Criteria.

  • Section 508 conformance validation testing: Testing to confirm an IT implementation meets the requirements of the relevant Section 508 standards. The requirements or criteria for conformance must be specified.

  • Section 508 Program or equivalent: An effort within a reporting entity to ensure all of its IT meets Section 508 standards, often led by a designated Program Manager.

  • Section 508 Program Manager: Manager of a reporting entity’s Section 508 program on behalf of the reporting entity CIO whose duties include developing and maintaining policies, guidance, and best practices. Some reporting entities might not have an individual with this title, but there may be an individual assigned the same duties and responsibilities. Used interchangeably with Section 508 Coordinator. See M-24-08 for additional roles and responsibilities.

  • Shared Service: A federal shared service in this context is defined as an information technology function that is provided for consumption by multiple organizations across federal agencies by a single federal agency.

  • Single Sign On: A system allowing one set of login credentials to access multiple applications.

  • Solicitation: A request for bids or proposals from the federal government. Solicitations under simplified acquisition procedures may require submission of either a quotation or an offer (from the FAR).

  • Sometimes: Used to describe activities that are performed approximately 1% to 24% of the time.

  • Sufficient: Adequate to meet the needs of a requirement.


  • Telework Agreement: A written agreement for remote work conditions. May also be referred to as a remote work agreement.

  • Training Plan: A plan that defines who within the reporting entity should receive training, the training schedule, and mandatory training.


  • User Acceptance Testing (UAT): A phase of development or deployment in which the application is tested to ensure the application can handle real-world tasks and affirm the performance meets development specifications, including ICT accessibility requirements, before being accepted by the reporting entity or business representative.


  • VPAT® or Voluntary Product Accessibility Template: A product of the Information Technology Industry Council, the VPAT® is a reporting format for assisting buyers and sellers in identifying ICT products and services with accessibility features. A completed VPAT® is referred to as an Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR).


  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): WCAG (current versions 2, 2.1, and 2.2 levels A, AA, and AAA) is developed through the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) process in cooperation with individuals and organizations around the world. The purpose is to provide a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organizations, and governments internationally. The WCAG documents explain how to make web content more accessible to people with disabilities.

  • Web page (webpage): A document on the World Wide Web, including resources provided for rendering, retrieval, and presentation of content. Web pages are delivered by a web server to the user and displayed in a web browser. Web-based applications with dynamic content or customizable views within a single page should be counted as one page.

  • Website: A website, and web-based application, consists of many web pages linked together under a common domain name such as “[agency].gov.”

Reviewed/Updated: May 2024

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