On August 11, 2021, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory (FAR) Council issued a final rule updating the federal government’s procurement regulations to officially incorporate the U.S. Access Board’s revised Section 508 Standards. The FAR Council is comprised of the Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy and representatives from the Department of Defense, the General Services Administration, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The FAR Council supplemented provisions in the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) supporting the requirements for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) procured by federal agencies to be accessible. This update to the FAR went into effect September 10, 2021.
This update to the FAR includes several key changes to ensure that federal agencies comply with Section 508 in their acquisitions of ICT. One change requires agencies to specifically identify which ICT accessibility standards are applicable to a procurement. Another change requires federal agencies to document in writing any exceptions or exemptions in their formal acquisition plans. These include exceptions provided for national security systems, incidental contract items, and features of ICT used in maintenance or monitoring spaces, and exemptions based on undue burden, fundamental alteration, and nonavailability of conforming commercial items.
In addition, federal agencies also must identify the needs of current and future users with disabilities and proactively determine how ICT functionality will be available to these users. They also must specify the development, installation, configuration, and maintenance of ICT in support of users with disabilities.
For more details on the changes with the final rule, visit GSA’s Section 508 comparison table at section508.gov/manage/laws-and-policies/far-update-comparison. The text of the amended FAR provisions was published in the Federal Register as “Federal Acquisition Regulation: Section 508-Based Standards in Information and Communication Technology” at www.federalregister.gov/d/2021-16363. For more information, contact the GSA Regulatory Secretariat Division at 1-202-501-4755 or GSARegSec@gsa.gov.
Training and assistance on the 508 Standards are available. GSA provides Section 508 accessibility training resources at https://section508.gov/training.
The Access Board provides technical assistance on the Section 508 Standards through its toll-free hotline at 1-800-872-2253 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Board also provides training on Section 508 Standards upon request and conducts a free webinar series to provide helpful information and best practices in meeting Section 508 Standards. To learn more or to register for a webinar in the Section 508 Best Practices Series, visit www.accessibilityonline.org/cioc-508. Past webinars are archived and available at www.accessibilityonline.org/cioc-508/archives.