The President put it best when he said, “Americans with disabilities are Americans first and foremost, and like all Americans are entitled to not only full participation in our society, but also full opportunity in our society.” And, the truth is that Americans with disabilities can’t fully participate and will not have the full opportunity to do so unless they have access to the technology that is so critical to that participation and those opportunities. That’s why, at the President’s direction, his Administration has focused on enhancing our commitment to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, so that Americans outside the government can access information about their government and those working inside the government can be productive employees.
Over the past few years, we have taken several affirmative steps regarding Section 508. For the first time, the Chief Information Officer Council and the Chief Acquisition Officer Council now jointly chair the Chief Information Officers Accessibility Committee. Following that creation, in July 2010, OMB issued a memorandum, Improving the Accessibility of Government Information to set forth additional steps. This memo focused on (1) increasing awareness of responsibilities and requirements associated with Section 508, (2) improving agency accountability and accessibility performance, and (3) improving outreach and communication. It also included a requirement to host listening sessions with the community across the nation to gather input on Federal implementation of Section 508.
Recognizing that we still needed to do more, in July 2011, the President announced an effort to develop a strategic plan for Section 508 and the intent to share the strategy with the public. To support development of this plan, senior officials and staff from across the Executive Office of the President have met with advocacy groups, Section 508 coordinators, the CIOC Accessibility Committee, the Access Board, the General Services Administration, and other key stakeholders inside and outside the government. We have taken the information from the listening sessions as well as all the input received through various stakeholder meetings and pulled together a framework for the next phase in our efforts to improve Section 508 management.
That’s where you come in. Before proceeding further with development of the strategic plan, we are seeking your input and expertise. Taking into account ideas from all the stakeholders we’ve met with so far, we posted a strategy document at http://section508.ideascale.com. It includes high level objectives, initiatives, focus areas, and potential measures. We’re looking for you to comment on what has been proposed, but also for you to propose broad management strategies, tactics, and actions that can ultimately help Federal agencies better comply with Section 508.
Whether we are working to achieve the goals of the President’s disability Executive Order, ensuring that people with disabilities have access to services during disasters, improving transportation services or so many other efforts, technology plays a critical role in our success. People with disabilities should be able to access their government on an equal footing with all Americans. With this strategy and your input, we take one more step toward achieving that goal.
Kareem Dale is Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy, Lesley A. Field is the Acting Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy, and Steven VanRoekel is the Federal Chief Information Officer and E-Gov Administrator in the Office of E-Government and Information Technology.