Despite tens of millions of Americans living with a disability, nearly half of the most popular federal government websites are not fully accessible. In response, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has recently published guidance to help strengthen digital accessibility and the management of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Together with the OMB memo “Delivering a Digital-First Public Experience” which also requires accessibility, this guidance will aid in delivering a more universally accessible digital experience for information and communication technology provided by the federal government.
This OMB memorandum, M-24-08 Strengthening Digital Accessibility and the Management of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, tasks the U.S. Access Board with several Government-wide actions:
- Update resources on Section508.gov: Within 180 days, the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Access Board, in coordination with OMB, will review and update existing government-wide resources (e.g., websites, best practices, guides, and playbooks) related to the accessibility of websites and digital services, including resources on Section 508 requirements, to identify opportunities to provide further assistance to agencies and consolidate existing resources.
- Buy accessible: Within one year, GSA, in consultation with the Access Board, will explore options for establishing a standardized accessibility conformance reporting process for government procurement of ICT, which should include a central repository of vendor accessibility conformance reports.
- Expand certifications and trainings: Within 180 days, GSA, the Access Board, and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will review existing Section 508 professional certification programs, identify opportunities to establish a professional certification program and create and publish guidelines for acceptable commercial certifications for Section 508 program managers.
- Explore a federal digital accessibility design and testing lab: Within one year, GSA, in consultation with the Access Board, will explore establishing a federal digital accessibility design and testing lab staffed with accessibility specialists who can perform automated and manual testing and assessments of agency ICT, as well as provide user research and usability testing related to the accessibility of ICT.
Additionally, this memorandum rescinds the following memoranda from OMB: Strategic Plan for Improving Management of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (Jan. 24, 2013), Improving the Accessibility of Government Information (July 19, 2010), Ensuring the Accessibility of Federal Electronic and Information Technologies Procured by Federal Agencies (Nov. 6, 2007), and Buying Accessible Electronic and Information Technology and Complying with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (Aug. 11, 2005).
An overview of the recently published memorandum can be found in the White House’s press release. All questions or inquiries regarding this memorandum should be addressed to the OMB Office of the Federal Chief Information Officer (OFCIO) via email: email@example.com. Additional technical assistance on Section 508 is provided by the Board and GSA. Agencies are encouraged to make use of Section508.gov, which provides resources and best practices to assist with agency implementation efforts.