Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) Categories
- Section 508 Applicability
- Project Requirements and Exceptions
- Market Research
- Contract Language
- Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR)
- Section 508 Evaluation Criteria
- Digital Accessibility in a Project’s Life Cycle
External public facing, non-public facing official agency communications, and internal applications.
- Software & hardware with user interfaces
- COTS and GOTS licenses
- Emails, electronic documents, training materials
- List of deliverables in a services contract
- Audio and/or video, webinars, recorded meetings
- Posting to and use of social media
- Intranet content as a webpage or web application
- External webpages and web applications
All management, business owners, technical team members, and other staff involved in the ICT life cycle. With or without contractors, the government is accountable for conformance and must respond to access requests, litigation, and ensure conformance.
- Offer contact: Before complaints occur, provide a contact or resource mailbox to send concerns.
- Identify a process: Validate complaints are product/content issues versus user preference. Then determine escalation, prioritization, and severity criteria for addressing the defect(s).
Section 508 Applicability
Always assume Section 508 is applicable, unless determined by an OpDiv Digital Accessibility Program Manager. In rare instances a Section 508 General Exception may apply. Meaning Section 508 applies but the ICT is not required to conform. Only the OpDiv Digital Accessibility Program Manager can authorize an Exception.
Yes. Section 508 language is required in the SOW/SOO/PWS. Deliverables must be conformant and accepted by the government.
Section 508 is a standalone process. It is not integrated into other business processes and must be included and receive a risk assessment from the OpDiv Digital Accessibility Program.
All supplemental documentation, training content, or exportable content must independently conform.
Yes, third-party plug-ins and generated content must also meet HHS conformance requirements.
Project Requirements and Exceptions
Applicable technical requirements depend on the format of the product or content. Multiple chapters of the standards may apply. Review the 508 Chapter 2: Scoping Requirements and 255 Chapter 2: Scoping Requirements to identify applicable provisions. GSA’s Accessibility Requirements Tool (ART) can also assist with determining applicable requirements through guided questions.
- Audience size – How many users?
- Visibility – Team, OpDiv, Department, Public?
- Conformance – Comparatively, most accessible product meeting business needs?
- Impact – How severe the outcomes are if accessibility is excluded from a life cycle step.
Most exceptions only apply to specific features or functions. The whole project will not likely be granted an exception. There are seven types of exceptions, and each has unique criteria and documentation requirements. Exceptions can only be granted by HHS and OpDiv Digital Accessibility Program officials. Refer to the HHS Policy for Section 508 Compliance and Accessibility of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for exception request criteria and contact the OS Digital Accessibility Program for additional information.
- Obtain an ACR (e.g., completed VPAT, HHS conformance checklist(s), other agency report).
- Meets the HHS conformance requirements.
- Functional demo of the product/platform to establish a conformance baseline.
- Confirm the supplier or purchaser can modify the product to meet conformance requirements. (Note: Code-level access is important for fixing defects. Low-code options often do not provide flexibility to address conformance.)
Focus on potential vendors that have experience and demonstrate the ability to build conformant products and content.
Assume Section 508 language is required for acquisitions that include ICT. Each OpDiv Digital Accessibility Program may have recommended Section 508 language. OS owned and managed acquisitions should refer to the “Contract Language” section of the OS Digital Accessibility Acquisition Resources. GSA's Accessibility Requirements Tool (ART) can provide additional information.
Assume Section 508 language is required for acquisitions that include ICT. Section 508 language must be inserted as a standalone section covering the entire acquisition.
Accessibility Conformance Report (ACR)
An in-depth evaluation of products, platforms, or content that identifies the conformance level of features and functions to digital accessibility standards. ACRs can be generated through various methods, including reports, checklists, or the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT®). (See GSA’s Request Accessibility Information from Vendors & Contractors)
It is best to send ACR material to the appropriate OpDiv Digital Accessibility Program. An accessibility subject matter expert (SME) can then perform analysis on the provided information. However, the following are quick tips to identify quality information.
- A testing method needs to be identified. The testing method must include manual testing. The use of an automated web-crawler and/or assistive technology are good supplemental testing methods.
- Be suspicious of nearly all “Conformance Levels” listed as “Supports” (there is no perfect product). Likewise, too many “Not Applicable” indicates potential lack of SME knowledge.
- The remarks should not repeat the requirement. When guidelines “Do Not Support” or “Support with Exceptions” the Remarks must explain the areas in the content, type of elements, and remediation plan steps (preferably with projected dates to conformance).
No. ACRs are only required when products or platforms are being procured.
Section 508 Evaluation Criteria
- Indicate an ACR is required for proposed products or platforms (including subscriptions to software).
- Offerors must explain how they will meet the legal framework of Section 508 standards and how the development/creation efforts associated with the objectives will be measured to achieve HHS digital accessibility conformance standards.
- Offerors should describe previous experience in meeting Section 508 conformance standards.
What types of Section 508 information should be in a proposal and technical volume?
Identifies what accessibility credentials and review tools the vendor has & will use to continuously test the ICT in each step/stage. Describes previous experience in meeting Section 508 conformance standards.
Digital Accessibility in a Project’s Life Cycle
- Perform a few baseline evaluations to establish a high-level assessment.
- Confirm an accompanying HHS checklist(s) or report(s) from the respective OpDiv Digital Accessibility Program indicates full conformance.
- Contact the respective OpDiv Digital Accessibility Program for conformance questions or concerns.
User interface and functionality updates / upgrades / new releases for software, hardware, web (inter- & intra-), mobile, or document versions require review. The OS Conformance Review Guidelines cover more examples.