GSA Government-wide Section 508 Accessibility Program

Common Misconceptions

e-Recruiting and Accessibility

In today’s competitive job market, it’s important to recruit from a large and strong candidate pool.  The GSA Government-wide IT Accessibility Program would like to call to your attention the work of the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT). PEAT helps employers find and recruit the best talent by using accessible e-Recruiting. PEAT, a part of the United States Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, promotes the employment, retention and career advancement of people with disabilities.

Benefits of Accessible Design

According to the World Bank, approximately one billion people worldwide live with a disability, making up the world's largest minority. Designing from an accessibility-first standpoint has the potential to benefit all stakeholders, not just people with disabilities, because accessible design typically delivers a better user experience.

How to Answer Section 508 Facepalms: Do we have any employees with disabilities?

A while ago we wrote a post, “508 Facepalms or Opportunities?” listing some of the questions and comments you may have heard about Section 508. So how do you answer those questions? This is part of a series of blog posts to help you. If someone says: If someone says something like: "But we don’t have any disabled employees," or "There is not an accessibility issue since most employees can use it without a problem,” or “But I can see it,” they are making an assumption about the abilities of other people.

508 Facepalms or Opportunities?

Star Trek's Captain with hand on face and the words "or Opportunity"

While those of us who work in Section 508 understand the importance and scope of the role it plays, those who don’t may need a little help to understand. Sometimes you will get questions and comments that make you want to put your face in your hands and cry. Instead, we recommend that you take a deep breath and use it as an opportunity to spread understanding of Section 508. Here are “508 facepalms” that have been shared with us.

Compliance and Conformance

There are a lot of terms used when talking about Section 508, and they are not always used consistently. Federal agencies are required to comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. 794 d). This Act states that Agencies must ensure that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) that they “develop, procure, maintain or use” allows for comparable access by both Federal employees and members of the public with disabilities seeking information or services from the Federal government. Below is a description of the appropriate use of the terms compliance and conformance.

Is a VPAT Voluntary?

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.

What to do about Sole Source

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.


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