Digital Accessibility @ HHS

HHS’ Role in Accessibility

The department has an obligation to its employees and members of the public to provide the same (or comparable) access to, and use of, information and services from an HHS OpDiv sought by each and every individual. As a department, we believe everyone is accountable and responsible for accessibility conformance.

The accessibility field encompasses many types of technology, standards and guidelines. As a department of the federal government, we are required to abide by the Section 508 legislation. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, codified at section 29 USC 794d, as amended, ensures those with disabilities have equal access to government information as contained on information and communications technology (ICT), and thereby to the government employment, programs and services to which all citizens are entitled. Section 508 is only one segment of the accessibility field. As use of information technology has greatly increased within the workplace, and out, in recent years, and additional legislation has required ever-more access to government information, there is a great need for strong, effective action to ensure compliance across the department.

What does it mean to be accessible?

Accessibility can be measured by how successfully a person with a disability can locate, get to, and understand the wanted or needed information. Accessibility results in benefits like eliminating barriers to information and communications technology (ICT) and encouraging development of technologies and techniques.

Who is impacted by inaccessible content?

A disability is any condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities. Recognized groups of disabilities include:

  • Photosensitive epilepsy
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Limited language, cognitive, and learning abilities
  • Deaf or limited hearing
  • Blind or limited vision
  • Without perception of color
  • Non-verbal or limited speech
  • Limited manipulation
  • Limited reach and strength

What types of content are required to be accessible?

All external public facing content and non-public facing official agency communications. ICT and internal official agency communications include, but are not limited to, the following.

  • Web, desktop and mobile technologies;
  • Printers, scanners, phones, and kiosks;
  • Software used but not purchased by the federal government;
  • Email; PDFs, MS Office documents, support material, ;
  • Posting to and the use of social media sites;
  • A survey questionnaire; a template or form;
  • Educational or training materials;
  • Intranet content designed as a web page.
  • An emergency notification;
  • An initial or final decision adjudicating an administrative
  • claim or proceeding; a formal acknowledgement of receipt;
  • An internal or external program or policy announcement;
  • A notice of benefits, program eligibility, employment
  • opportunity, or personnel action;

Inaccessible content puts the department at risk of legal action. Important: It is the responsibility of the content or system owner to ensure their content, system, product or service is accessible.

Contact the OS Accessibility Program

Feedback and inquiries regarding accessibility and Section 508 pertaining to the Department or OS can be directed to the HHS Accessibility Help Desk. Requests for training or conformance evaluation are encouraged.


Assistive Technology (AT)?

Any device, software, or equipment that helps people adapt their environment. Examples include text-to-speech, dictation, closed captioning, high contrast, and alternate input devices.

Electronic Content

Electronic content that is not public facing shall conform to the applicable accessibility requirements when such content constitutes official business and is communicated by an agency through one or more of the following:

  1. An emergency notification;
  2. An initial or final decision adjudicating an administrative claim or proceeding;
  3. An internal or external program or policy announcement;
  4. A notice of benefits, program eligibility, employment opportunity, or personnel action;
  5. A formal acknowledgement of receipt;
  6. A survey questionnaire;
  7. A template or form;
  8. Educational or training materials; or
  9. Intranet content designed as a Web page.

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is 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 are:

  1. Electronic content;
  2. Telecommunications products;
  3. Computers and ancillary equipment;
  4. Software;
  5. Information kiosks and transaction machines;
  6. Information technology services;
  7. Multifunction office machines which copy, scan, and fax documents.
  8. Web based intranet or Internet information and applications;
  9. Multimedia (including video and pictures); and
  10. Other related resources defined by the Administrator.

Section 508 and WCAG?

Section 508 is a law that states anytime the federal government develops, procures, maintains, or uses ICT employees and members of the public with disabilities seeking information, data or services from the department must have the same or comparable access as those without disabilities. Section 508 conformance is achieved by meeting a set of technical standards. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a set of standards used by individuals, organizations, and governments worldwide to ensure text, images, sounds, and code or markup that define structure or presentation are accessible to all users.

Content created by Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO)
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