I agreeto Idea Each agency should follow same 508 guidelines
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Each agency should follow same 508 guidelines

If EVERY agency followed the SAME set of 508 guidelines, it would help to streamline and consolidate 508 implementation. Currently, agencies treat and evaluate 508 differently.

Ask any contractor who works with multiple agencies and they will tell you the same thing....the agencies all intepret 508 it differently.

Submitted by dee johnson 2 years ago

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  1. The idea was posted
    2 years ago

Comments (17)

  1. I'm not opposed to agencies having different styles and approaches to 508 -- it's not as objective a domain as some others, so a bit of leeway is necessary. If agencies did a better job of openly sharing their testing results, decisionmaking, etc. it would go a long way to reducing unnecessary differences in interpretation, not to metion differences in actual outcomes.

    2 years ago
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    1. I think the mission of the agency should inform its 508 standard. Direct services agencies that have a lot of interaction with individuals who may benefit from 508 enhancements might be "best practice" organizations, while other agencies might follow their example.

      2 years ago
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  2. dee johnson Idea Submitter

    I get what you're saying, but there are huge differences in what each agency considers a pass/fail. Look at this page we're currently using. I see 2 issues which may or may not affect the pass/fail. One is a seemingly blank h6 tag (shouldn't affect 508), the other is the 'skip nav' which seems to (1) use javascript; and (2) focus on the 'what we're discussing' in the left nav bar--doesn't skip to the main content. So would yo pass it or fail it?

    2 years ago
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  3. Moderator

    That's a excellent point. Different agencies have different pass/fail threshold. This application passed initial section 508 testing. Then we said, let's look at usability too. Fortunately, the vendor worked with us to correct many of the usability problems. We looked to various agencies for testing the product. Thanks for pointing out ones we missed. I'll forward to the vendor.

    2 years ago
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    1. dee johnson Idea Submitter

      Not to be nick-picky, but how is it that you can use your vendor's logo on this site? I can't put my logo and link on any Federal sites I do.

      2 years ago
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  4. I wasn't clear enough about my point. I agree that consistency is an important goal, both for process and results. I'm only saying that the easiest first step towards consistency is transparency. Trying to force consistency via a top-down, centralized method is going to provoke agencies' autonomy reaction. And it will be slow, because you'll have to achieve consensus in advance, before you impose it.

    2 years ago
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    1. dee johnson Idea Submitter

      Yes, you right about that, however, haven't we all had the same set of rules since June 21, 2001? It's the nuances that change rapidly that kill us, the people 'in the weeds' who have to make judgement calls on things like video player implementation (which do I use? should I go open- or closed-captioned? Should I embed in the video or use XML captions?). I think having a board like this for people to share what they are doing is a big step in keeping people on the same page and helping make some of those judgement calls.

      2 years ago
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  5. Moderator

    My experience is that there are (at least) two layers involved in this question of consistency of approaches and rules within the federal government: there are 508 practitioners who understand enough and would benefit from being able to share solutions, ideas, etc., or be part of a Community of Practice. There is another layer of people who need to implement one or another aspect of 508 and who don't understand it very well and mostly don't want to. They need the more top-down type of rules, policies, procedures that provide detailed step-by-step instructions to follow to insure that the right things get done and in a consistent manner.

    2 years ago
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    1. dee johnson Idea Submitter

      That's very true--there are those 2 layers (the 'do' and 'do I have to') people. Its funny, but whenever I've been faced with this topic (508) in a classroom situation, it always beccomes very controversial -- people seem to have a very polarized reaction to 508 implementation.

      2 years ago
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    2. Absolutely. The problem is, there are probably a lot of people in the second layer who think they're in the first! I think the benefit of the Community of Practice model is that you can be a contributing member (layer 1) or a lurker (layer 2). In such a community there will be a need to take some of the collective wisdom and boil it down into step-by-steps and FAQs. Let people engage to the extent they want to; make it open enough for anyone to chime in, but solid enough for anyone to come and see practical guidance without reading an extended guru dialogue.

      2 years ago
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    3. I think you think they all think about it more than they do. Seriously though, accessibility only comes naturally to those who are regularly exposed to it or similar areas like usability. Agencies have different missions and program priorities, so some differnece in practice and implementation in required, but dee_johnson is right. The more portable and common practices are among the agencies the more effective the federal government will be in positively affecting the market (products and contractors). There are not enough experts to meet demand, so novices need common practices and interpretations. The CIO Council's Accessibility Committee is focusing on this issue now, and it looks like there is or will be much less polarization in the future.

      2 years ago
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    4. The "don't want to" understand types might be reacting to concerns that 508 will limit their work--lower the bar--rather than provide an enhancement for those who need an alternative way to access content.

      2 years ago
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  6. Moderator

    An agency may have one or two experts on accessibility, who are focused on ensuring the agency follow, not just the rules, but the spirit of the law, too. It's impossible for those few experts to be involved in every single procurement or decision the agency makes. How can we make accessibility a focus of everyone in the agency - similiar to IT security?

    2 years ago
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    1. Create some standards that are acceptable across agencies and coordinate training. IT security is required annual training in most if not all federal agencies. That is simply not the case with Section 508.

      To further the needs for organizational awareness, think of all the electronic documents that an organization creates and shares internally. Very rarely is accessibility even considered. Agencies have Intranet and file sharing sites that they allow employees to upload documents and forms and how can you expect the creators of this data to even know what Section 508 is if they have not been trained.

      2 years ago
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    2. I don't think we can do that. We can simulate it, though, by letting the committed experts to communicate more widely. If agency X has a guru on product category Y, that person's opinions and results should be available to everyone (not just feds, and not just govt.). Open dissemination multiplies their value, and dialogue raises the level of quality.

      2 years ago
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  7. The "same 508 guidelines" already exist in the current legacy Section 508 Technical Standards. Ask any government Section 508 tester and they will tell you that most contractors interpret Section 508 differently, and can barely code use DreamWeaver.

    Give traction and teeth to the procurement language, and you'll have your "same 508 guidelines".

    2 years ago
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    1. dee johnson Idea Submitter

      The reason contractors interpret the nuances differently proves my point. While we all have the same guidelines we've had since 2001, there are subtle differences in how agencies and even branches interpret things. For example, a blank TD tag--acceptable or not? Some are ok with it, some are not. But I think that's why we are all here on this board, so we can share ideas on how to work together (both government and contractors) in the spirit of ensuring 508 compliance.

      2 years ago
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