I agreeto Idea Executive Support Needed for 508 to Succeed
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Executive Support Needed for 508 to Succeed

The suggestions received thus far are generally pretty good, but in they are nibbling at the edges rather than attacking the core of the problem. What distinguishes the very few agencies or components that have been relatively successful in implementing Section 508? It is top level executive understanding and support. Most top level executives do not understand the scale and scope of Section 508 and the need for them to provide supportive policies, along with standardized procedures and practices. The FAR actually does a pretty good job of implementing Section 508 requirements, but it is rarely followed in practice. Further, Section 508 is often viewed as a procurement requirement for vendors, ignoring the fact that it also governs development, maintenance and use of E&IT within Federal Agencies. Until agency executives understand and get behind Section 508, implementation will continue to crawl at a snail’s pace.

Submitted by Community Member 2 years ago

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  1. The idea was posted
    2 years ago

Comments (17)

  1. Moderator

    How can we elevate the importance of 508 to executive level?

    2 years ago
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    1. What is the cost of non-compliance? Are there any consequences for non-compliance that cause pain to an agency? If there are not then it's almost impossible to think that they will change. As long as the pain of change outweighs the pain of staying the same, they will stay the same. I’m not suggesting any punitive actions but perhaps if you posted compliance metrics you could create a bit of healthy competition. If an executive were to see their agency at the bottom end of the compliance spectrum and knew that it was public they would not want to stay there for long. That little bit of exposure could be just enough pain to cause change

      2 years ago
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    2. 2 years ago
      1 Agreed
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  2. Community Member Idea Submitter

    There has to be strong administrative support for Section 508 in both word and deed. The President has stated his Administration is committed to implementing Section 508,but the EOP is not complying with the Standard. It is faced with some of the very same problems that face Agencies, lack of understanding of the scope and scale of the Standard. The EOP needs to be a model for other agencies.

    There also needs to be a concerted effort to help executives understand the scope and scale of the standard, what they need to do in terms of establishing policies implementing Section 508,and where to go for help in developing compliant practices and procedures.

    2 years ago
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  3. I also believe that one of the problems executives have is that they have policies in place but don't have a real implementation plan nor do they assign resources to carry out their policies. Whose role is it within the organization to ensure Section 508 is taken into account? Does that role/person change based on ICT being used, developed, procured or maintained?

    2 years ago
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  4. Early in this administration the idea of an accessibility dashboard was put forward -- public notice of the degree of compliance for each agency, by a rough measure, frequently updated. Why do we have to wait 2 years between DoJ reports (not that it's ever been as little as 2 years!)? Executives might grow a bit of backbone. Similarly, accessibility should be measured and reported across agencies, by technology product -- let OEMs and vendors see their wayward babies pilloried in public.

    2 years ago
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    1. And also with the DOJ Surveys they are self assessments. Is that the only data we have as to how well an agency is doing?

      2 years ago
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    2. Read the materials. They are suggesting more, but it lacks specificity. A good place to start: http://section508.ideascale.com/a/pages/contents

      2 years ago
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  5. An example of the problem is healthcare.gov. We used to have a highly accessible site that explained Medicaid to people with disabilities, but it was discontinued on the grounds that all healthcare information should go through healthcare.gov. That site fails all sorts of checks, is virtually impossible to navigate, and has very weak content. Our request to have some input to improving it, at least with respect to disability-related information, was ignored.

    Personally, I think there is a gross underestimation of what it takes to make complex informational websites usable, let alone accessible, and promises are made that cannot possibly be kept given time frames and resources, let alone lack of knowledgeable staff.

    2 years ago
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    1. I work at HHS Office on Disability. What problems with accessibility and rejected disability related content have you encountered at healthcare.gov?

      2 years ago
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    2. 1: Be careful of whose assessing a site for accessibility; not all assistive technology users are created equal.

      2: Many Gov sites contain a page similar to

      www.healthcare.gov/accessibility.html.

      Users need to learn to read these pages and request assistance through agency channels posted there if there is indeed inaccessible material required by an end-user.

      2 years ago
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  6. Executive level support + budget. Section 508 cannot continue to be an unfunded mandate. DoJ can't take private organizations to court and hold them accountable when they can't hold other Government agencies accountable. All this boils down dollars and cents. We have funding for security and privacy programs - why not for Section 508?

    2 years ago
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    1. I agree. And I'll re-state that the cheapest form of enforcement is public information. All of the recommendations here that focus on measuring and publishing 508 status, by agency and by technology, would do a world of good to motivate these executives, and at very little cost.

      2 years ago
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  7. For government agencies that are on closed secure networks, having some external resource spot check 508 compliance isn't feasible as they won't have access. Likewise, there's no way to then compare non-compliance in these non-public agencies to others. And since the public will never have access, there's no fear of them filing law suits. I've worked at an Agency that has had a very clear 508 compliance mandate for years, but very little attention is paid, there's no internal enforcement of any kind, or even any effort to require developers to be trained in accessibility issues. The fault for failure is equally shared by both government and contractor staff, but my impression is that some developers are cognizant of accessibility and make an effort at compliance because they know it's the right thing to do. If agencies made more of an effort internally to raise awareness and seek compliance, it would make a difference, but 'executive support' has to be more than a written policy.

    2 years ago
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    1. There are lots of ways to have closed networks reviewed: other government employees, for one.

      I agree that executive support has to mean actions, not words.

      2 years ago
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  8. Once again, it's ironic that federal agencies - in charge of enforcing regulations on citizens - don't seem to do it for themselves.

    In a few companies where I have worked, the thing that got everyone to pay the most attention was when senior management stopped a site or app from being launched. News traveled fast, and no one wanted to be the next site made an example of.

    2 years ago
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  9. Chiming in because I just remembered -- the CVAA requires a corporate officer of a manufacturer or service provider to sign off on a statement about the records pertaining to accessibility of the company's products. Nothing like getting a big shot on paper to kick commitment up a notch! It might be possible to require agency heads to so certify under 508. (Not making powerful friends here....)

    2 years ago
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