Section 508

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In June 2001 Section 508 of the Workforce Rehabilitation Act went into effect specifying the requirements for accessible Information and Communication Technology (ICT) that each federal agency needed to follow. As part of its responsibility under this law to provide technical assistance to help agencies comply with these requirements, GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy (OGP) authorized development of a suite of automated tools--the Buy Accessible System. These tools simplify compliance with Section 508 and provide a paper trail to demonstrate compliance. The main tool for agencies is the Buy Accessible Wizard, which is available to any agency at no cost. Section 508 was initially a source of confusion; while it was clear that overall responsibility for compliance rested with federal agencies, the roles of other stakeholders (vendors or EIT, people with disabilities and advocacy groups for them, citizens using government services, and subject matter experts) were less certain. The Accessibility Forum was established in 2001 as a collaboration among these stakeholders to create a structure for informed decisions about EIT products and services relative to Section 508 and reach census on how Section 508 could best be implemented to satisfy the needs of all stakeholders. Through 2003 the Forum had over 640 member organizations, held 5 full-member on site meetings, conducted 2 webcast updates, and led two major technical workshops. The work product of the workshops was a set of Resource Documents published in Jan 2003 as the Quick Reference Guide--an incomparable collection of documented knowledge relative to Section 508, the Access Board Standard and its relevance and application to specific EIT, and how product "conformance" to the Standard could be ascertained. When put in context with the federal acquisition process, this document became the basis for the BuyAccessible Wizard tool. The BuyAccessible Wizard was first introduced to federal agencies as a web-based application in 2004. Numerous user feedback sessions were conducted leading up to the first release. Today, the Wizard has gone through many releases and is the primary tool agencies use for determining and documenting compliance for EIT acquisitions. The release of the BuyAccessible Wizard marked the transition from the Accessibility Forum to the BuyAccessible Program--providing the acquisition workforce and industry partners with solutions for successful federal agency compliance with Section 508. The program continued to concentrate on technical development of compliance tools as well as supporting awareness, training, and education for Section 508 in general.

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