Federal agencies are still falling short on requirements in the Rehabilitation Act to make technology to be accessible for, and usable by, people with disabilities—the so-called “Section 508” requirements named for where they are found in that law—according to a Senate report.
The Special Committee on Aging said that “federal websites, particularly within the Department of Veterans Affairs, are out of compliance—creating barriers for people with disabilities who rely on federal technology for essential services, including health care, employment, Social Security, and more.” The report faulted agencies with a lack of internal attention to the requirements and delays in addressing violations even when they are pointed out.
“We would not ask someone using a wheelchair to walk up the courthouse steps. Yet, the government does something similar every time it asks people with disabilities to use inaccessible federal websites, mobile apps and other technology,” it said.
Compliance is especially important, it said, given that the population is aging and that older persons are more likely to have impairments including low vision/blindness and low hearing/deafness and rely on features such as screen magnifiers, text-to-speech or speech recognition software, and captioning of videos.
Recommendations included that OMB review its guidance on compliance; that GSA and agency IGs should increase oversight and publish data on compliance; and that individual agencies should make sure they have the capacity to test their technology, including through more use of human rather than merely automated testing.
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