In 1998, the United States Congress amended the United States Rehabilitation Act and enacted Section 508. Section 508 requires that Federal agencies eliminate barriers in information technology to people with disabilities.
Section 508 Resources (www.section508.gov)
More about Section 508
Section 508 establishes accessibility requirements for any electronic and information technology that is developed, maintained, procured, or used by the United States federal government. It requires that all U.S. government agencies “ensure that…federal employees with disabilities…have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access of those without disabilities.” It also requires that federal agencies developing Web sites ensure that citizens with disabilities have equal access to the information on those Web sites.
To be “Section 508 compliant,” software and documentation purchased by the federal government after June 25, 2001, must meet the accessibility standards specified in the Section 508 regulations. These standards, as well as definitions of “electronic and information technology,” were issued by the U.S. Access Board (an independent government agency) on December 21, 2000.
On June 21, 2001, the standards went into effect, and four days later, the associated amendments to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), which enforce the Section 508 regulations, went into effect as well. Federal agencies must adhere to these standards when purchasing information technology (IT) or related services.
The Section 508 regulations have raised the bar for accessibility of electronic and information technology products, and not just for those products sold directly to the U.S. federal government. Industry-wide, compliance with Section 508 is becoming standard for all IT products. Companies would prefer not to produce separate IT products specifically for government use if the only difference between those products and their standard, off-the-shelf products are accessibility issues. Instead, companies are improving the accessibility of their standard products.
Insperity OrgPlus Voluntary Product Accessibility Template
The Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, known as the VPAT, was developed by the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC www.itic.org ) to provide a meaningful way for vendors to respond to questions from government purchasing agents regarding the accessibility of their products. The ITI represents the leading U.S. providers of information technology products and services.