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Department of Health and Human Services HHS Policy on Section 508 and Accessibility of Technology

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Purpose

2. Background

3. Scope

4. Policy

4.1 Exceptions

5. Roles and Responsibilities

5.1 IT Steering Committee

5.2 HHS Section 508 Operations Board

5.3 HHS Section 508 Official

5.4 HHS Section 508 Coordinator

5.5 HHS Chief Acquisition Officer (CAO)

5.6 OpDiv Heads/ OS Office of the Chief of Staff

5.7 HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs

5.8 HHS Office of Human Resources

5.9 HHS Office of Equal Employment Opportunity

5.10 HHS Office for Civil Rights

5.11 OpDiv Section 508 Official

5.12 OpDiv/OS Section 508 Coordinator

5.13 All HHS Staff

6. Governance and Metrics

7. Enforcement

7.1 HHS Staff

7.2 Contract Staff and Vendors

7.3 Partners and Grantees

8. Complaint Process

9. Applicable Laws & Guidance

10. Supporting Documentation

11. Information and Assistance

12. Effective Date

13. Implementation

14. Key Effectiveness Indicators

15. Approvals

 

Nature of Changes

This policy revises and supersedes the “Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Policy for Section 508 Electronic and Information Technology (EIT)” issued in January, 2005.

 

1. Purpose

This Policy sets forth the framework of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for the implementation of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended in 1998.

HHS aspires to be a model employer of people with disabilities, as required by Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. HHS also seeks to ensure equally effective access to its programs and services, as required by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. HHS can reach both of these goals only if it adheres to the requirements of Section 508.

HHS operates many programs that are critically important to people with disabilities. Information Technology (IT) is often the vehicle for delivering them. This policy addresses the need for IT to be accessible to this significant constituency. The most effective and least costly approach to technology accessibility is for HHS to incorporate accessibility into its IT governance, development and procurement processes.

 

2. Background

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act was enacted to eliminate barriers to information and communications technology (ICT1). It creates new opportunities for people with disabilities and encourages the development of technology products and services using accessible design. Section 508 applies when federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use information and communications technology. They must ensure that federal employees with disabilities have access to ICT that is comparable to the access enjoyed by federal employees without disabilities unless doing so would impose an undue burden on the agency. The statute also makes the same requirement with respect to members of the public with disabilities seeking information or services.

This policy establishes the Section 508 function within the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) because HHS’s goal is to integrate considerations of accessibility into IT policy, planning, management and operations. This is consistent with the “Strategic Plan for Improving Management of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act - A Framework for Enhancing and Sustaining Management Improvements to Increase the Accessibility of Electronic and Information Technology” issued by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on January 24, 20132.

 

3. Scope

This Policy applies to all HHS Operating Divisions (OpDivs), Staff Divisions (StaffDivs) including the Office of the Secretary (OS) and Office of the Inspector General (OIG). It applies to partners or organizations conducting business for, and on behalf of HHS through contractual relationships. HHS officials are required to apply this Policy to all federal employees, contractor personnel, interns, volunteers and other non-government employees working on behalf of HHS. All partners or organizations collecting or maintaining information, or using or operating information systems on behalf of HHS are also subject to the stipulations of this Policy.

OpDivs and OS shall use this Policy or may adopt a more restrictive policy. They may not adopt one that is less restrictive, less comprehensive or less compliant. Unless otherwise noted, the term “OpDiv” within this Policy shall mean both OpDivs of HHS and OS. StaffDivs shall be construed to be subcomponents of the OS.

This policy applies to all Departmental ICT developed, procured, maintained, or used by HHS on or after June 21, 2001.

 

4. Policy

It is the policy of HHS that all ICT developed, procured, maintained, funded and used by the agency will be accessible to persons with disabilities. HHS will only employ the narrow exemptions in the Section 508 regulations when it is unavoidable. The Section 508 standards developed by the U.S. Access Board establish the minimum levels of compliance required.

The title of this policy is “HHS Policy on Section 508 and Accessibility of Technology” because Section 508 is not the only law affecting HHS’s obligation to ensure ICT is accessible. Ensuring that technology will be accessible is often the most effective and least costly way to comply with Section 501, mandating affirmative action in employment practices for people with disabilities, and Section 504, which prohibits discrimination. This policy does not impose new obligations beyond those already required under existing law.

Specifically, HHS will:

  1. Ensure that employees and customers with disabilities have access to and use of electronic information and data that is comparable to the access available to people without disabilities unless a valid Section 508 exception applies and has been approved. When the appropriate authority determines that compliance with Section 508 would impose an undue burden, the information and data must be provided by an alternate method or format.
  2. Ensure, when procuring ICT that the most compliant product that best meets business needs is selected by following all HHS and OpDiv Section 508 acquisition compliance and ICT accessibility policies and procedures.
  3. Ensure that all electronic content and communications, including published content on the Internet and Intranet, are in compliance with applicable Section 508 requirements.
  4. Ensure all HHS-funded programs follow accessibility requirements for activities and communications that they deliver electronically.
  5. Ensure that all IT Enterprise Performance Life Cycle checkpoints and other IT governance processes include Section 508 review criteria and associated subject matter expertise.
  6. Monitor and ensure compliance with this Policy.
  7. Provide employees and members of the public with a way to file complaints about noncompliance.

4.1 Exceptions

All ICT within the scope of this policy that is not fully compliant with applicable Section 508 Information and Communication Technology (ICT) accessibility standards must fall within the coverage of a valid exception.

All exception requests for Section 508 must be submitted through an HHS-approved process. They must be approved by the OpDiv Section 508 Coordinator or their designee, except that National Security and Undue Burden exceptions cannot be approved by a designee. An exception request shall include an accommodation plan to address the needs of employees or the public with disabilities. Whenever appropriate, a specific remediation plan will be developed with the vendor or developer and approved by the OpDiv Section 508 Coordinator or their designee.

 

5. Roles and Responsibilities

5.1 AMD IT Steering Committee

The Administration and Management Domain (AMD) IT Steering Committee will govern Section 508 compliance and serve as an executive oversight committee. It will issue interpretations of this Policy, policy guidance, and standards.

For Section 508 matters that go beyond the scope of the AMD IT Steering Committee (IT priority-setting, review and financial questions), the HHS Management Council will issue policy interpretations and guidance.

The AMD IT Steering Committee

  1. Will set HHS-wide Policy framework for Section 508, including amendments and changes to this Policy.
  2. Will make final authoritative interpretations of policy.
  3. Will recommend changes to the Secretary of HHS to other policies related to the needs of persons with disabilities with respect to technology and information access.
  4. Will designate authority and directs action by HHS organizations to implement this Policy.
  5. May engage and retain nonvoting subject matter experts, as needed.

5.2 HHS Section 508 Operations Board

The 508 Operations Board (OB) will govern Section 508 implementation for achieving consistency in technical methods and processes, identifying best practices and selecting common tools and resources. Its membership will consist of representatives from the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA) and the Section 508 Coordinators from each OpDiv.

The Operations Board:

  1. Will set HHS-wide standards and procedures for Section 508. These will include but not be limited to training, acquisitions, acceptance, evaluation, exceptions, complaints process (in consultation with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR)), and reporting.
  2. Will establish guidelines to ensure that HHS includes applicable Section 508 requirements and acceptance testing/quality in the planning process for high priority investments. High priority investments include those that (1) exceed $1 million in lifecycle costs, (2) staff are required to use (e.g., timekeeping, telework, etc.), or (3) are utilized across OpDivs.
  3. Will make interim interpretations of HHS Section 508 policy and resolve interagency discrepancies.
  4. Will recommend best practice and shared services.
  5. Will review all HHS-wide training for Section 508 conformance.
  6. For Section 508 matters that go beyond the scope of the IT Steering Committee (IT priority-setting, review and financial questions), the Operations Board may request the HHS Management Council to issue policy interpretations and guidance.
  7. May engage and retain nonvoting subject matter experts, as needed.

5.3 HHS Section 508 Official

  1. Will be responsible and accountable for HHS-wide Section 508 compliance and implementation.
  2. Will oversee the submission to the HHS-wide combined biennial Department of Justice Section 508 survey and submission of other reports required by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). ASPA and the Office of Grants and Acquisition Policy and Accountability (OGAPA) will assist if needed.
  3. Supports the development, issuance, maintenance, and oversight of HHS Section 508 policy and procedures.
  4. Will develop strategies to measure Section 508 progress across HHS.
  5. Will ensure that HHS implements and maintains a Section 508 training program.
  6. Will designate resource, and direct the HHS Section 508 Coordinator and the OS 508 Coordinator.

5.4 HHS Section 508 Coordinator

  1. Will manage the HHS-wide Section 508 Program on behalf of the HHS Section 508 Official, to include developing and maintaining agency policies, coordinating shared services, guidebooks, and disseminating best practices.
  2. Will implement and monitor measurements of Section 508 progress across HHS.
  3. Will designate and oversee HHS-level representatives that participate in capital planning and business case development and IT governance to ensure ICT appropriately considers Section 508 across the IT and acquisition lifecycles for enterprise-wide systems and investments.
  4. Will provide training materials and programs about accessibility awareness and developing/authoring accessible content using HHS ICT.
  5. Will collaborate with other Section 508 coordinators within HHS and throughout the federal government to assist in meeting Section 508 goals and objectives.
  6. Will represent HHS or appoint HHS-level delegates to participate in external Section 508 activities on behalf of HHS.
  7. Will assume additional detailed responsibilities as provided for in the GSA Resource Manual for Section 508 coordinators that will be located and maintained on www.section508.gov.
  8. Will coordinate staff support and logistics for activities of the Section 508 Governance and Operations Boards.
  9. Will serve as a nonvoting member of  the Operations Board.
  10. Will resolve informal concerns regarding the accessibility of enterprise-wide ICT systems.
  11. Will coordinate and approve HHS-level 508 communications.

5.5 HHS Chief Acquisition Officer (CAO)

  1. Will provide guidance across HHS OpDivs and ensure compliance with Section 508 procurement- related policies and procedures for acquisitions.
  2. Will implement and monitor training requirements for Section 508 for the HHS acquisition workforce.
  3. Will designate a representative to the Section 508 Operations Board.
  4. Will provide guidance to HHS OpDiv procurement offices to ensure ICT procurements comply with the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) – Subpart 39.2 and HHS Acquisition Regulation (HHSAR) – Subpart 339.2.

5.6 OpDiv Heads/ OS Office of the Chief of Staff

  1. Will ensure OpDiv/OS compliance with Section 508 by designating the OpDiv/OS Section 508 Official and ensuring resources for the OpDiv Section 508 Program.
  2. Will assure the continuous appointment of an executive to serve in this capacity, sets performance standards, and annually reaffirms this appointment. In the absence of a formal designation, the OpDiv/OS Chief Information Officer will serve in this capacity, unless or until the OpDiv Head specifically names an alternate.

5.7 HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs

  1. Will designate a representative to serve on the Section 508 Operations Board.
  2. Will ensure HHS’s digital content (e.g., Web sites, electronic files or publications, multimedia, and digitally delivered training) conform to applicable technical standards in Section 508.
  3. Will develop department-level guidance on publishing compliant digital content, subject to review by the Section 508 Operations Board.
  4. Will provide and maintain Section 508 Leaderboards that summarize Section 508 data to support and supplement reporting on Section 508 compliance for websites.
  5. Will enforce and develop interim standards for content under the direction of the Section 508 Operations Board.

5.8 HHS Office of Human Resources

  1. In collaboration with the Section 508 Operations Board, will notify the appropriate Section 508 Coordinator when a technology-related request for a reasonable accommodation is made. S/he will determine whether the best solution is an individual accommodation or an accessibility improvement to the ICT involved.
  2. Will implement human resources actions, including but not limited to training mandates, performance standards, and employee review criteria that support this Policy.
  3. Will develop, maintain, and implement procedures for accommodating employees with disabilities by providing comparable access to ICT as described in the Section 508 standards and keeping records to monitor outcomes, resolution, and identify trends.
  4. Will provide reports and survey data from Labor and Employee Relations on the number and status of Section 508-related complaints received by the OpDivs in response to data calls from the appropriate government and other oversight organizations.

5.9 HHS Office of Equal Employment Opportunity

  1. Will designate a representative to the Section 508 Operations Board.
  2. Will develop, maintain, and implement procedures for accommodating employees with disabilities by providing comparable access to ICT, when notified of 508 exemptions.
  3. Will operate and maintain a process for formal complaints about Section 508 violations by employees of HHS. Will provide reports and survey data on the number and status of Section 508 complaints received by OpDiv to the appropriate government and other oversight organizations.
  4. Will include Section 508 in all HHS staff orientation materials.

5.10 HHS Office for Civil Rights

  1. Will develop, maintain, and implement HHS-wide procedures for accepting and handling complaints filed by the public, applicants, and beneficiaries relating to Section 508 compliance and accommodation.
  2. Will provide technical assistance to HHS components regarding the resolution of non-employment complaints and will maintain a process for forwarding Section 508 complaints not within OCR’s jurisdiction to appropriate organizations.
  3. Will maintain a system of records to monitor and track all HHS Section 508 complaints, including resolution of issues.
  4. Will provide reports and survey data on the number and status of Section 508 complaints received by all of HHS to respond to data calls from the appropriate government and other oversight organizations.
  5. Will ensure that all HHS Equal Employment Opportunity officers/officials are knowledgeable about Section 508 requirements.

5.11 OpDiv Section 508 Official

  1. Will ensure Section 508 compliance throughout the OpDiv by coordinating OpDiv-Level IT, content, personnel, and policy development.
  2. Will provide executive oversight of the OpDiv Section 508 Program by ensuring resource, staff, and policy support.
  3. Will decide appeals for denied exceptions to Section 508.
  4. Will designate the OpDiv Section 508 Coordinator.
  5. The OpDiv Head will designate the OpDiv 508 Official.

5.12 OpDiv/OS Section 508 Coordinator

  1. Will manage the OpDiv-wide Section 508 Program on behalf of the OpDiv Section 508 Official, to include developing and maintaining OpDiv policies, guidebooks, and disseminating best practices.
  2. Will review and approve exceptions to Section 508 or designate other individuals to approve exceptions.
  3. Will participate in acquisitions, grant management, and interagency agreement monitoring, approvals, and evaluation activities as outlined in the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), Department of Health and Human Services Acquisition Regulations (HHSAR), and OpDiv policies.
  4. Will implement and monitor measurements of Section 508 progress across the OpDiv.
  5. Will provide consultation to, or participate in, OpDiv capital planning and business case development and IT governance to ensure EIT appropriately considers Section 508 across the IT and acquisition lifecycles for OpDiv systems and investments.
  6. Will provide training materials and programs about accessibility awareness and developing/authoring accessible content using OpDiv ICT.
  7. Will submit Section 508 reports and metrics on behalf of the OpDiv and conduct audits of compliance.
  8. Will collaborate with other Section 508 Coordinators within HHS and throughout the federal government to assist in meeting Section 508 goals and objectives.
  9. Will represent the OpDiv on the Section 508 Operations Board and at other HHS and federal Section 508 activities.

5.13 All HHS Staff3

  1. Will complete Section 508 training when required by the HHS Section 508 Official or OpDiv policy.
  2. Will properly apply Section 508 requirements to relevant work activities when the work product influences whether ICT will be accessible.
  3. Will adhere to the provisions of this Policy and its associated standards and procedures when developing, procuring, maintaining, or using ICT.
  4. Will ensure 508 compliance for all content (emails, documents, applications, and files) authored, owned, developed, maintained, and posted/ for publication. Publication includes public-facing websites, agency-controlled intranet systems, or distribution via broadcast emails.
  5. Will notify grantees that grant-funded activities provided through ICT must comply with Section 504 through compliance with Section 508 or other comparable ICT accessibility standard.
  6. Will ensure that contractors and vendors provide complete and accurate HHS Section 508 Acceptance Checklists for all ICT being developed, procured, maintained or used by HHS employees and by the public sites, websites and applications.
  7. Will provide clear documentation on conformance of the features and appropriate uses of their ICT products to ensure accessibility.
  8. Will ensure that contractors and vendors properly apply Section 508 requirements to relevant work activities.
  9. Will ensure that contractors and vendors adhere to the provisions of this Policy and its associated standards and procedures when developing, choosing, or maintaining ICT.

 

6. Governance and Metrics

HHS Section 508 compliance will be governed by the AMD IT Steering Committee, which will serve as an executive oversight committee. It will issue interpretations of this Policy, policy guidance, and standards.

The Section 508 Operations Board (OB) will govern Section 508 implementation for achieving consistency in technical methods and processes, identifying best practices and selecting common tools and resources. It will consist of representatives from OCIO, ASPA and the Section 508 Coordinators from each OpDiv.

The HHS Section 508 Official will support the Operations Board as the executive secretariat.

The HHS Section 508 Official will collect information and data about Section 508 implementation for an annual report. The HHS Section 508 Official will analyze the information submitted, prepare a summary annually and publish this summary on the OCIO website. The information collected will include, at a minimum, the items for the bi-annual OMB Section 508 reports; additional information may be collected for internal HHS analysis and use.

 

7. Enforcement

Providing accessibility is integral to HHS’s mission. There is broad support for Section 508 across HHS. It is important, however, for all to recognize that failure to ensure adherence to Section 508 requirements is a violation of HHSAR 352.239-73(a), 36 CFR 1194.1 and HHS Policy.

7.1 HHS Staff

The HHS Office of Human Resources shall set procedures for the action to be taken when the OS or OpDiv Section 508 Official determines an employee has willfully disregarded the requirements of this Policy or pursuant standards and directives. The OpDiv Office of Human Resources shall set procedures for the action to be taken when the OpDiv Section 508 Official determines an employee has willfully disregarded the requirements of this Policy or pursuant standards and directives.

7.2 Contract Staff and Vendors

Misrepresentation of Section 508 compliance or failure to provide ICT products or services that meet the proposed and accepted level of conformance is unacceptable. They may result in termination for cause or other actions as specified in the HHSAR or FAR.

7.3 Partners and Grantees

Misrepresentation of ICT accessibility or failure to provide ICT products or services that meet the proposed and accepted level of conformance specified in the Funding Agreement is not acceptable. It may result in termination for cause, disqualification from further Funding Opportunity Announcement consideration or funding holdbacks as determined by the HHS Project Officer.

 

8. Complaint Process

HHS will establish an informal process for collecting concerns and suggestions to improve Section 508 implementation. Submissions to this process will be acknowledged, compiled and summarized on an annual basis.

HHS will maintain a formal complaint system, using the existing Section 504 complaint process for complaints from the public. EEO will maintain a complaint process for employees with disabilities.

The availability of the complaint process and the way to file a complaint will be communicated to the public and employees with disabilities in a variety of ways, including HHS notices on websites about Section 508. HHS will acknowledge complaints within 10 working days of receipt. HHS will respond to complaints within 90 days. HHS will resolve complaints within 180 days. If a reasonable accommodation is necessary while a complaint is pending, a reasonable accommodation plan will be completed within five working days and implemented within 10 working days. HHS will document complaints and publish an annual summary and report on Section 508 complaints on the HHS website. HHS will analyze the data collected for how to improve Section 508 implementation.

 

9. Applicable Laws & Guidance

Authorities include:

  • 29 U.S.C. § 794d – Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended
  • Public Law 105-220 – Workforce Investment Act of 1998
  • Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act - Subchapter II of Chapter 113 of Title 40, United States Code
  • 36 C.F.R. § 1194 – Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards; Final Rule
  • Federal Acquisition Regulations; Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility, 48 C.F.R. §§ 2, 7, 10, 11, 12 and 39 [FAC 97-27; FAR Case 1999-607]
  • Health and Human Services Acquisition Regulation, 48 C.F.R. Chapter 3, § 339-201
  • HHS Enterprise Performance Life Cycle Policy, §§ 5.6, 6 HHS EPLC Practices Guide, “Section 508 Compliance” (found in Design section of Artifacts list)

 

10. Supporting Documentation

The HHS Policy on Section 508 and Accessibility of Technology will be implemented via the deployment of guidance on process and procedures in the following areas, to be developed by the Section 508 Operations Board:

  1. Procurement and acquisitions
  2. Development of software and systems
  3. Web: inter and intranet
  4. Digital content
  5. Multi-Media
  6. Training
  7. Validation and Testing
  8. Formal and informal complaints
  9. Reporting and metrics
  10. Other topics, as appropriate

 

11. Information and Assistance

HHS Section 508 Coordinator is responsible for the development and management of this policy. Please direct questions, comments, suggestions and requests for information to 508policy@hhs.gov.

 

12. Effective Date

Effective date of this policy is the date the policy is approved. This Policy will have a default review cycle of one year and may be reviewed sooner if a significant need for revision is identified.

 

13. Implementation

This Policy is effective upon March 25, 2016.

 

14. Key Effectiveness Indicators

The effectiveness of this Policy will be measured by

  1. evaluating the maturity of the OPDIV’s 508 programs and
  2. testing and sampling relevant output with respect to:
    1. procurement and acquisitions
    2. inter and intranet web accessibility
    3. incorporation of Section 508 considerations into the Enterprise Performance Life Cycle (EPLC)
    4. accessibility of digital content
    5. accessibility of multi-media
    6. training
    7. management of feedback and complaints

 

15. Approval


   / Beth Ann B. Killoran /                 04/27/2016   
Beth Anne Killoran                            DATE
Acting HHS Chief Information Officer

 

 


1 ICT is defined as "any information technology, equipment, or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment for which the principal function is the creation, conversion, duplication, automatic acquisition, storage, analysis, evaluation, manipulation, management, movement, control, display, switching, interchange, transmission, reception, or broadcast of data or information". Examples of ICT include electronic and digital content, telecommunications products, computers and ancillary equipment, software, information kiosks and more (U.S. Access Board).
2 https://www.whitehouse.gov/.../omb/.../strategic-plan-508-c...
3 Some of these requirements will come into effect when HHS staff take on specific roles, such as document authoring, preparing documents for a procurement, managing a contract or grant, etc.


Content last reviewed on June 6, 2016