You may be more familiar with the term “508 Compliance.” Accessibility is required by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. However, simply focusing on Section 508 aspects of compliance may not make the content accessible to all. For the purposes of this guide and the Office of Information and Technology's approach to accessibility, there are three primary components to compliance.
- Technical Compliance. Accessibility in VA begins, but doesn’t end, with the legal requirements set forth by law in Section 508 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This means all information, as well as all systems and applications developed by the VA need to be accessible. All purchased systems and applications need to be accessible to the maximum extent possible. This is true whether the system or information is internal to VA, is a draft or final product, or is utilized externally by Veterans or the American public. VA Directive 6221 and the associated Handbook define the responsible parties and application of the law within VA.
- Plain Language and Understanding. The Plain Writing Act of 2010 recognizes that the ability to understand the information created by federal agencies makes a difference to every person. Failure to produce content that can be understood by target audiences can cause confusion, misunderstanding, and possibly even more severe consequences. We must be diligent in our efforts to ensure that any information created to support VA outreach, applications, and services is easy to comprehend and use.
- Access to Information. The primary focus of accessibility tends to be on the technical aspects so the ability to gain access to the information, application, or service is often overlooked. We need to ensure that those searching for the information can access it. Ensuring that documents have the necessary properties filled out so that search tools can find the information is a major first step. Providing access to information in alternate ways if digital delivery is not an option. This includes, but is not limited to, having forms and other printed material available upon request or providing secure access to information systems in order to use an application or online service.
This guide focuses on the issues most likely to impact the digital content you create most often. This tool is not a comprehensive list of all possible issues. Your team may need additional resources to meet accessibility requirements.
Responsibility for accessibility
The original creator of content, whether a VA employee or contractor, is individually responsible for ensuring that electronic materials they produce or acquire with VA funds — including but not limited to emails, documents, software development, and websites — meet accessibility requirements. Supervisors and Contracting Officers Representatives are responsible for ensuring that all individuals under their oversight comply with these requirements.