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508 Coordinators Reference Manual

Section 508 Reference Manual

Prepared by:
Helen Chamberlain, General Services Administration
Clare Bellus, Social Security Administration
Jeffrey Salit, Department of Housing and Urban Development
Joel Dean, Department of Housing and Urban Development

Table of Contents


Statement of Need

Section 1: Key Features of Section 508
1.1 Definition of EIT
1.2 508 Standard
1.3 Exceptions
1.4 Nonavailability
1.5 Equivalent Facilitation
1.6 Complaint Procedure
1.7 Reporting Requirements

Section 2: The Federal Acquisition Regulation Final Rule
2.1 Micro-Purchase Exception
2.2 Availability of Products that Meet the Applicable Technical Provisions
2.3 Undue Burden Process
2.4 Application of the Law

Section 3: Roles and Responsibilities
3.1 Chief Information Officer
3.1.1 CIO Role
3.2 Section 508 EIT Accessibility Coordinator
3.2.1 Section 508 Coordinator Role
3.2.2 Section 508 Coordinator Responsibilities
3.2.3 Section 508 Coordinator Resources
3.3 Section 508 EIT Accessibility Team
3.3.1 Section 508 Accessibility Team Role
3.3.2 Section 508 Accessibility Team Responsibilities
3.4 Section 508 Accessibility Team Membership
3.4.1 Information Technology Membership Roles and Responsibilities
3.4.2 Procurement Membership Roles and Responsibilities
3.4.3 Human Resources Membership Roles and Responsibilities
3.4.4 Policy and Planning Membership Roles and Responsibilities

Section 4: Implementing Section 508
4.1 Implementation Plan
4.2 Budget Issues
4.3 Strategic Planning
4.4 Work with Developers
4.5 Software Development Life Cycle
4.6 Section 508 EIT Security Issues

Section 5: References

Under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, agencies must provide employees and members of the public who have disabilities access to electronic and information technology that is comparable to the access available to employees and members of the public who are not individuals with disabilities. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Section 508 was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities, and to encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals. This reference manual was developed to provide a starting point for implementation of Section 508 within an agency. As each agency has its own way of doing business this document is designed to assist Section 508 Coordinators with their respective duties and to give them a product that can be enhanced to fit their specific environment. The document is informational. It neither creates new policies nor changes existing policies. Agency personnel must consult appropriate officials within their agencies for formal advice. Agency responsibilities for the implementation of Section 508 include incorporating the new requirements into policy and practice as it relates to development, procurement, maintenance, and use of electronic and information technology; managing administrative complaints; and responding to reporting requirements. This is a dynamic manual. As Section 508 interpretation and compliance matures, updates will be issued. The electronic version of this document ( will directly link you to referenced on-line resources. The hard copy, which will be provided to all current Federal Section 508 Coordinators, has been organized to allow the addition of information that is specific to each agency and to provide quick access to information. For Braille copies of this manual, please contact Helen Chamberlain at



Mission The purpose of this document is to provide information on the background and issues related to implementation of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and the impact of this Act on your organization. Introduction The electronic and information technology (EIT) revolution offers many challenges, but none perhaps so daunting as the assurance of accessibility and usability of these critical technologies to all people, including those with disabilities. In many ways, the "wired universe" of EIT has acted as a liberating communications catalyst for people with disabilities. Yet, the rapid advances in this sector can also pose serious technological barriers for people with disabilities, including Federal employees, if accessibility is not assured. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended in 1998 (PL 105-220), reinforces the Federal government's efforts to assure a "level playing field" for people with disabilities. On August 7, 1998, the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which included the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998, was enacted. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that when Federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, they shall ensure that this technology allows:
  1. Federal employees with disabilities to have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that by Federal employees who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency, and
  2. Individuals with disabilities, who are members of the public seeking information or services from a Federal agency, to have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that provided to the public who are not individuals with disabilities.
The law requires the development of standards -- including specific technical provisions and functional performance criteria -- to establish a minimum level of accessibility that will be enforceable through Federal procurement regulations, establishes a complaint procedure, and institutes new agency reporting requirements. Statement of Need According to the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, there are 54 million Americans with some level of disability. About half of those experience severe disability. Of working age people (age 15-64), 18.7%, or 32.1 million, have a disability. These numbers are expected to continue to increase due to the aging of the U.S. population. According to the Presidential Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities (Re-charting the Course: Turning Points) there are 167,902 Federal employees with reportable disabilities or functional limitations. The Federal government is committed to breaking down barriers and working to become a model employer in terms of hiring, accommodating, and promoting people with disabilities. The creation of the Presidential Task Force on Employment of Adults with Disabilities, Executive Order 13163 (requiring Federal government to hire 100,000 individuals with disabilities over the next five years), Executive Order 13164 (requiring Federal agencies to establish procedures to promote the development of consistent policies and procedures for providing reasonable accommodation), and most recently, President George W. Bush's New Freedom Initiative ( are part of this effort. Implementation of Section 508 also is a critical element of this coordinated initiative. EIT requires a special emphasis as it has fundamentally changed the workplace and is expected to continue to shape the work environment for many years to come. EIT can either be a barrier to, or facilitator of, employment for many individuals with disabilities depending on whether or not it is accessible. Individuals with disabilities may have a range of functional limitations. These include upper and lower mobility limitations, manipulation limitations, blindness or low vision, deafness or hearing limitations, and speech or cognitive limitations. If the technology is accessible, it will support and facilitate the reasonable accommodation and program access requirements of Sections 501 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. These needs and barriers illustrate how inaccessibility can negatively affect activities most of us take for granted, such as using the telephone and reading email. Therefore, accessibility of EIT is key to facilitating opportunities for people with disabilities, whether Federal employees or the general public, to access information and services, obtain and maintain employment, participate in community activities, and contribute to society. The Federal government is leading the way with implementation of Section 508. The Federal procurement system must promptly and effectively deliver accessible EIT incorporating current technologies, including advances in accessibility to effectively meet its mission and mandates. This law is likely to increase the availability of accessible EIT in the private sector due to a "trickle down" effect, thus improving opportunities for all citizens with disabilities. The interagency Section 508 Steering Committee has developed a set of answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ) regarding how Section 508 applies to Federal purchases of electronic and information technology (EIT). The FAQ is maintained at For Technical Assistance on the Section 508 provisions, the Access Board has developed guidance at The General Services Administration (GSA) has developed an online course to train Webmasters how to develop Web pages that meet the Section 508 provisions at GSA has also created a portal for information regarding how a vendor's product or service they offer complies with the Section 508 provisions. It will assist government personnel in completing market research necessary to ensure that they are buying the most accessible IT products and services available in order to comply with Section 508. All agency Section 508 Coordinators are encouraged to visit these sites and to become familiar with the answers and resources provided within them.
Continue to Section 1