Screenshot of the report. On September 12 the Department of Justice issued its latest Section 508 Report to the President and Congress regarding the accessibility of federal electronic and information technology (EIT).

This survey of EIT accessibility in federal agencies is designed to advise and provide guidance for continuing efforts to improve accessibility, especially on federal agency websites.

The Department surveyed 89 agencies including 318 “components” that responded individually to the survey questions. I’ve compiled some of the more interesting (ie, electronic document specific) findings and recommendations together here.

Survey Findings

  • 11 years after the Section 508 regulations became law just over 50% of agency components had established a general policy to implement Section 508.
  • 70% had a Section 508 coordinator, but only 35% had a Section 508 office or program.
  • Of agencies with a Section 508 office or program the average staffing level was 2.5 full-time equivalents (FTE) with a median budget of $35,000.
  • Just 40% of agencies provide training to their employees, with EIT developers receiving “a little over an hour” of training in accessibility.
  • Agencies “…experienced difficulty establishing a mechanism to ensure EIT used in a program or activity receiving federal financial assistance is accessible to persons with disabilities.”
  • Few agencies use specific, applicable requirements regarding procurement, nor do they test vendor’s products for accessibility.

Complaints against Federal Agencies

  • Federal agency components have received 140 administrative complaints and 7 civil actions regarding Section 508 compliance.
  • Just over 30% of agencies even have procedures to receive complaints! (many others use Section 504 processes to handle Section 508 complaints).

Regarding Website and PDF Accessibility

  • 70% of agency components reported accessibility policies for websites and claimed their sites were “generally accessible”.
  • 28% reported routine automated and manual checking and remediation.
  • 24% reported manual remediation.
  • The report specifically calls out PDF files in several places, noting that agencies reported PDF (along with video content) was “…the most frequently used content on their websites.”
  • Fully 95.8% of federal websites surveyed used PDF files.
  • A majority of agency components reported web accessibility policies addressing the use of PDF files.

Recommendations

  • Establish policies and procedures for Section 508 compliance.
  • Appoint coordinators and establish programs in the office of the CIO or CTO.
  • Enhance training by leveraging the US Access Board and GSA’s expertise in accessibility.
  • Remind recipients of Federal financial support that Section 504 prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities and advise them to ensure their websites and other EIT are accessible.
  • Ensure both automated and manual testing is used on agency websites.
  • Publish website accessibility statements.

Read the complete Department of Justice report for yourself.

UPDATE:  Read the AFB’s damning assessment: Fahrenheit 508: Why Current Federal Tech Access Policy is in Ashes

Learn about CommonLook software and training for accessible PDF.

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