Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and
U. S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR MANUAL SERIES
DLMS 9 - INFORMATION MANAGEMENT
DATE: March 25, 2005
Chapter Reference: Chapter 600 — IT Accessibility Management
Nature of Revisions: This chapter establishes policy and procedures to implement Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 508 requires Federal agencies to ensure that their electronic information technology (EIT) products are accessible to people with disabilities. This chapter will replace the DLMS 9 Chapter 800, “Support of People With Disabilities” policy.
Approval for Issuance and Distribution:
600 IT Accessibility Management
601 Purpose. This chapter establishes policies and procedures within the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to implement Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. 794d). Section 508 requires Federal agencies to ensure that their electronic and information technology (EIT) products are accessible to people with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency.
602 Scope. This policy is applicable to all DOL electronic and information technology, including information contained on DOL external and internal Web Sites. This policy also applies to office equipment such as computers, printers, fax machines, copiers, and other electronic resources such as software applications and telephones. It is important to note that Section 508 became enforceable on June 21, 2001. This chapter is, therefore, not applicable to EIT purchased or developed before that date. This chapter also does not establish policy for ensuring that buildings or facilities are accessible, which is addressed in DLMS 2-600. (Definitions of terms used in this chapter are found in Section 607).
604 Background. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended in 1998 by Public Law 105-220 (the Workforce Investment Act), applies to Federal departments and agencies. It does not apply to recipients of Federal funds and does not regulate the private sector. Section 508 requires that when Federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use EIT, they shall ensure that this technology allows Federal employees and members of the public with disabilities to have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that by Federal employees and members of the public who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency. When undue burden is claimed, an alternative means of access is still required.
- Section 508 further requires:
- that the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) develop technical and functional standards to establish a minimum level of accessibility and that the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council revise the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) to incorporate Access Board standards;
- establishment of agency complaint procedures; and
- institution of new agency reporting requirements.
- The Access Board issued its Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards on December 21, 2000, and the standards became enforceable on June 21, 2001. In addition, the Civilian Agency Acquisition Council and the Defense Acquisition Regulations Council amended the FAR to implement Section 508. These amendments became effective June 25, 2001. DOL is required to comply with the Access Board standards and Federal Acquisition Regulations.
- Under Section 508, any individual with a disability may file a complaint alleging that the Department is not complying with the provisions of the Access Board’s standards. Administrative complaints must be filed with the Department, which must apply the complaint procedures for resolving allegations of discrimination in a Federally-conducted program or activity. (For details, refer to Section VI of the Appendix).
- The Department of Justice, in cooperation with the General Services Administration (GSA), is required to coordinate with Federal agencies to provide biennial reports to the President and Congress on the current state of Federal accessibility. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requires agencies to address Section 508 compliance issues when submitting Exhibit 300, OMB Circular A-11 – Capital Asset Plan and Business Case.
605 Exceptions, Nonavailability, and Fundamental Alternation. Unless an exception at FAR 39.204 applies, acquisitions of EIT supplies and services must meet the applicable accessibility standards at 36 CFR Part 1194. The exceptions in 39.204 are:
- EIT for a national security system;
- EIT acquired by a contractor incidental to a contract;
- EIT located in spaces frequented only by service personnel for maintenance, repair or occasional monitoring of equipment (also referred to as “back office” exception); and
- where compliance with the accessibility standards would impose an undue burden on the agency.
In addition to the above exceptions, both the FAR and the Access Board standards acknowledge that there may be situations in which supplies or services meeting accessibility requirements are not available; in those cases, the standards do not apply. Supplies or services are considered available when they are available in the commercial marketplace or when they are developed in response to a Government solicitation. The Access Board standards further state that compliance with Section 508 does not require a fundamental alteration in the nature of a product or service or its components.
Additional guidance on these exceptions is provided in the Appendix.
- Public Law 104-106, Division E, the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996
- Public Law 105-220, Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which includes Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 (29 U.S.C.§794d)
- Public Law 107-347, E-Government Act of 2002
- Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board EIT Accessibility Standards at 36 CFR Part 1194
- Federal Acquisition Regulations 39.2, Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board EIT Accessibility Standards (48 C.F.R. Part 39, Subpart 39.2)
- OMB Circular A-11, Preparation and Submission of Budget Estimates
- OMB Circular A-130: Management of Federal Information Resources
- Secretary's Order 3-2003, Update of Delegation of Authority and Assignment of Responsibility to the Chief Information Officer
- Secretary's Order 2-2003, Management of U.S. Department of Labor Web Sites
- DLMS 2-800 Grant and Procurement Management
- DLMS 9-100 Information Resources — General Management
- DLMS 9-200 IT Capital Investment Management
- DLMS 9-500 Enterprise Architecture
- DLMS 9-700 System Development and Life Cycle Management
- DOL Webmaster Information Resource web page
- Buy Accessible — Government Purchasers
Designed specifically to assist in performing market research
- Market Research Guidelines — When and how to perform market research, including examples
- Voluntary Product Accessibility Template — Assistance for Federal contracting officials in making preliminary assessments regarding the availability of commercial products and services
- Section 508 Training — GSA
- Section 508 Software Development Training — IRS
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Alternative Means of Access. A different means of providing information, including product documentation, to users of products, such as voice, fax, relay service, TTY, Internet posting, captioning, text-to-speech synthesis, and audio description.
- Assistive technology. Any item, piece of equipment, or system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is commonly used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.
- Electronic Capital Planning and Investment Control System is a government owned web-based application that is used by Federal Agencies to manage investments and prepare budget data for submission to OMB.
- Electronic and Information Technology includes information technology and any equipment or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment that is used in the creation, conversion, or duplication of data or information. The term electronic and information technology includes, but is not limited to, telecommunications products (such as telephones), information kiosks and transaction machines, Internet/Intranet sites, multimedia, and office equipment such as copiers and fax machines.
- Fundamental alteration means a change in the fundamental characteristic or purpose of the product or service, not merely a cosmetic or aesthetic change.
- Information means any communication or representation of knowledge such as facts, data, or opinions in any medium (including electronic) or form, including textual, numerical, graphic, cartographic, narrative, or audiovisual forms.
- Information technology as defined by the Clinger-Cohen Act: (A) The term “information technology” with respect to an executive agency, means any equipment or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment, that is used in the automatic acquisition, storage, manipulation, management, movement, control, display, switching, interchange, transmission, or reception of data or information by the executive agency. For purposes of the preceding sentence, equipment is used by an executive agency if the equipment is used by the executive agency directly or is used by a contractor under a contract with the executive agency which (i) requires the use of such equipment, or (ii) requires the use, to a significant extent, of such equipment in the performance of a service or the furnishing of a product. (B) The term "information technology" includes computers, ancillary equipment, software, firmware and similar procedures, services (including support services), and related resources. (C) Notwithstanding subparagraphs (A) and (B), the term "information technology" does not include any equipment that is acquired by a Federal contractor incidental to a Federal contract.
- Nonavailability refers to circumstances where no commercial items are available that meet the applicable Access Board’s technical provisions (directly or through equivalent facilitation) in time to satisfy DOL’s delivery requirements. If products are available that meet some, but not all, applicable provisions, agencies cannot claim that a product as a whole is nonavailable just because it does not meet all the applicable technical provisions.
- Undue Burden. A significant difficulty or expense. In determining whether an action would result in an undue burden, an agency shall consider all agency resources available to the program or component for which the product is being developed, procured, maintained, or used.
- Chief Information Officer (CIO). The CIO has responsibility for overall coordination of DOL’s Section 508 responsibilities. The CIO will:
- Ensure DOL compliance with the Access Board accessibility standards and department-wide enterprise architectural standards and guidance.
- Ensure that DOL adequately considers accessibility requirements when making EIT investments, and that IT investments are in compliance with the established IT Capital Investment Management Process as described in Secretary’s Order 3-2003, and DLMS 9-200.
- Ensure that DOL agencies adequately address the selection screening question in the Electronic Capital Planning and Investment Control (eCPIC) system regarding Section 508 compliance, and attach justifying documentation in the eCPIC Resource Library.
- Coordinate, as appropriate, with the Office of Public Affairs to ensure that all DOL Web Sites are in compliance with the Access Board Web Accessibility Standards.
- Coordinate with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management and DOL agency heads, as appropriate, to ensure that the Department meets all external requirements, including reports to the Department of Justice and submissions to OMB.
- Serve as DOL’s Section 508 Coordinator and representative on interagency committees and working groups.
- In coordination with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management, ensure that agencies provide supporting documentation for claims to exceptions from Section 508’s accessibility requirements and claims of nonavailability or fundamental alteration.
- Provide supporting documentation for OCIO claims to exceptions from Section 508’s accessibility requirements and claims of nonavailability or fundamental alteration.
- Coordinate, as appropriate, with the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management, the Office of Disability Employment Policy, the Office of the Solicitor, and the Office of Public Affairs on implementation of this Chapter.
- Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management (ASAM). The ASAM is responsible for:
- In coordination with the OCIO, ensuring that DOL acquisitions are compliant with the FAR provisions relating to Section 508 and DOL procurement regulations and guidance, including the receipt of appropriate documentation and written justifications.
- Providing procurement guidance to DOL components.
- Conducting periodic Section 508 awareness training for DOL managers and staff.
- Administering the DOL Section 508 complaint process, including tracking complaints and resolutions.
- Coordinating with the OCIO and DOL agency heads, as appropriate, on implementation of this Chapter, including ensuring that the Department meets all external reporting requirements, such as reports to the Department of Justice and submissions to OMB.
- DOL Agency Heads are responsible for:
- Ensuring agency compliance with the Access Board accessibility standards and DOL enterprise architectural standards and guidance.
- Ensuring agency adherence to DOL procurement guidance and compliance with FAR requirements.
- Ensuring that their agencies have adequately considered accessibility requirements in their EIT acquisitions, and that IT investments are in compliance with the established IT capital investment management process as described in Secretary’s Order 3-2003; and DLMS 9-200.
- Addressing the selection screening question in eCPIC regarding Section 508 compliance, and attaching justifying documentation in the eCPIC Resource Library.
- Reviewing and, in appropriate cases, approving documentation submitted by the agency for claims to exceptions from Section 508 accessibility requirements and claims of nonavailability or fundamental alteration.
- Ensuring that agency staff participate in periodic awareness training for DOL managers and staff.
- Ensuring that agencies keep track of documented nonavailability or fundamental alteration determinations and exceptions to Section 508 accessibility requirements to assist the Department in reporting requirements.
- Ensuring, through coordination with OPA, that agency Web Sites comply with DOL Web standards and the Access Board Web Accessibility Standards.
- The Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy. The Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy is responsible for:
- Advising and assisting in the development of DOL policies and programs that promote the training and employment of people with disabilities, including implementation of Section 508.
- Coordinating, as appropriate, with the CIO and other agencies on matters relating to implementation of this Chapter.
- Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs. The Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs is responsible for:
- Coordinating, as appropriate, with the CIO and other agencies to ensure that all DOL Web Sites are in compliance with DOL Web standards and the Access Board Web Accessibility Standards and, as appropriate, on all matters relating to implementation of this Chapter.
- Ensuring, as appropriate, that the DOL Contact Center is compliant with Section 1194.23 (Telecommunications) of the Access Board’s standards.
- Solicitor of Labor (SOL). SOL is responsible for providing legal advice and counsel to the Department and agencies on all matters arising in the implementation of this policy.
- DOL Contracting Officers are responsible for:
- As appropriate and required for compliance with Section 508 and this DLMS, ensuring that the requirements of this DLMS are incorporated into procurement documents;
- Ensuring that existing and future contracts involving information resources within the scope of this DLMS comply with this DLMS; and
- Ensuring that DOL contractors comply with contract documents containing references to this DLMS or other Federal information resources standards and policies, such as Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Supplementary guidance about Section 508 and DOL’s implementation are available in the Appendix to this Chapter.
Successful implementation of Section 508 requires the cooperation and coordination of the acquiring and contract officials. When procuring products, each agency shall procure products that comply with the Electronic standards when such products are available in the commercial marketplace or when such products are developed in response to a Government solicitation. If products are commercially available that meet some, but not all of the standards, the agency must procure the product that best meets the standards.
Officials in the program office or organization funding and acquiring the EIT should develop product specifications and identify the applicable technical provisions of the Access Board’s standards in their requirements documents. Program offices should then conduct market research to identify what products, if any, are available to meet those provisions. Documentation of market research activities, exceptions, nonavailability, and undue burden determinations should be provided to the contracting officer. In adddition, agencies are responsible for including exceptions, nonavailability, and undue burden justification documents in the eCPIC Resource Library.
The information provided below is based on implementation guidance provided by GSA, the Access Board Standards, and DOL web rules for Section 508 compliance.
- Fundamental Alteration
- Legacy Systems
- Web-based intranet and internet information and applications
- The Complaint Process
- Reporting Requirements
Nonavailability refers to circumstances where no commercial items are available that meet the applicable Access Board’s technical provisions (directly or through equivalent facilitation) in time to satisfy the agency’s delivery requirements. If products are available that meet some, but not all, applicable provisions, agencies cannot claim that a product as a whole is nonavailable just because it does not meet all of the applicable technical provisions.
The requiring official must document nonavailability in writing and forward to the contracting officer for inclusion with the contract file. The documentation must include a description of market research performed and identification of the applicable technical provisions that cannot be met with products or services available from the marketplace.
The following are allowable exceptions identified by Section 508:
- National Security System: An exception is permitted for telecommunications or information systems operated by agencies, the function, operation, or use of which involves intelligence activities, cryptologic activities related to national security, command and control of military forces, equipment that is an integral part of a weapon or weapons system, or systems which are critical to the direct fulfillment of military or intelligence missions. This exception is statutory under section 508 and is consistent with a similar exception in section 5142 of the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996. This exception does not apply to a system that is to be used for routine administrative and business applications (including payroll, finance, logistics, and personnel management applications).
- EIT acquired by a contractor incidental to a contract: Section 508 responsibilities do not follow the receipt of Federal funds to contractors, but only apply to the product and services being procured by Federal agencies. Section 508 applies only to Federal agencies – including their EIT products and services that are deliverables under a contract. Section 508 does not apply to a contractor’s own internal workplace EIT.
For example, if a Federal agency enters into a contract to have a Web Site developed, the Web Site is required to meet the applicable technical provisions of the Access Board’s standards because the Web Site is the deliverable that is being acquired by the agency (unless, of course, an exception applies). However, the contractor’s office system used to develop the Web Site does not have to meet the technical provisions, since its equipment is incidental to the contract.
- Back Office: Section 1194.3 of the Access Board's standards, states that "Products located in spaces frequented only by service personnel for maintenance, repair, or occasional monitoring of equipment are not required to comply with this part."
Hardware. Two conditions must be met before an agency uses this exception when procuring a product. First, the agency must intend to locate the product in a physical space frequented only by service personnel. Second, the use of the product by the service personnel must be for maintenance, repair or occasional monitoring. If both conditions are met, the product does not have to meet the standards. Hardware that might meet these dual conditions includes: telephone equipment placed on racks in a "closet" or small room and network routers and storage devices or servers located in rooms or areas frequented only by service personnel for maintenance, repair, or occasional monitoring of equipment.
Software. Software which is installed or operated on a product which falls under this exception would be exempt from the standards if the software application could only be operated from the physical place where the product is located. This might include specialized diagnostic software. By contrast, if the software could be operated from a remote workstation, the software would be subject to the Access Board's standards irrespective of who is using it since the product interface is not located in a physical space which meets the criteria for this exception.
- Undue Burden: The FAR requires the requiring activity official to document in writing the basis for an undue burden decision and provide a copy to the contracting officer for inclusion in the contracting file. [See FAR 39.204(e)(2)(i)]. The documentation must clearly explain why meeting the applicable technical provisions imposes an undue burden.
Documentation to support an undue burden determination based on significant expense should include the applicable technical provisions of the Access Board’s standards, the market research performed to locate commercial items that meet the applicable technical provisions, the specific provisions that cannot be met as a result of undue burden, the expected cost of acquiring EIT that meets the applicable technical provisions, along with an explanation of how costs were estimated, and a description of funds available to the program or component for which the supply or service is being acquired. This documentation must be approved by the Agency Head.
In determining undue burden, an agency must consider all resources available to its program or component for which the supply or service is being acquired. Undue burden cannot be established simply by demonstrating that the price of products that meet the applicable technical provisions is higher than that of others that do not. Such an analysis is insufficient since it fails to consider all resources available to the program or component.
When an undue burden is justified, agencies must provide an alternative means of access that allow the individual to use the information and data. Compliance with Section 508 is not intended to prevent the use of designs or technologies as alternatives to those prescribed in the standards provided they result in substantially equivalent or greater access to and use of a product for people with disabilities.
III. Fundamental Alteration
Compliance with Section 508 does not require a fundamental alteration in the nature of a product or service or its components. Fundamental alteration means a change in the fundamental characteristic or purpose of the product or service, not merely a cosmetic or aesthetic change.
For example, suppose an agency intends to procure pocket-sized pagers for field agents for a law enforcement agency. Adding a large display to a small pager may fundamentally alter the device by significantly changing its size to such an extent that it no longer meets the purpose for which it was intended — that is to provide a communication device which fits in a shirt or jacket pocket. Generally, adding access should not change the basic purpose or characteristics of a product in a fundamental way.
IV. Legacy Systems
Legacy systems are not required to comply with Section 508; however, to the extent agency resources are available, agencies should consider replacing older, inaccessible EIT with newer more-accessible EIT, where such EIT is used by Federal employees or members of the public to access data or information. In addition to helping the agency meet its general intent under Section 508, such efforts may also help the agency satisfy its obligations under Sections 501 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
New maintenance and support contracts on legacy systems do not require the previously owned EIT to meet the technical provisions of the Access Board's standards. However, the newly acquired help desk services, training, and product support documentation, for example, must meet Subpart D of the Access Board's standards.
V. Web-based Intranet and Internet Information and Applications
The electronic and information technology governed by Section 508 includes intranet and internet information and applications.
The Office of Public Affairs has developed extensive guidance for web developers in making Web Sites accessible to persons with disabilities, including a Section 508 checklist for web accessibility. This guidance also includes background information and a description of the requirements under the standards, along with specific solutions for each requirement within the DOL environment. This guidance is available electronically on the DOL Webmaster Information Resource web page.
Any individual with a disability may file a complaint alleging that a Federal department or agency fails to comply with the provisions of the Access Board’s standards. Administrative complaints shall be filed with the Federal department or agency alleged to be in noncompliance. The Federal department or agency receiving the complaint shall apply the complaint procedures for resolving allegations of discrimination in a federally conducted program or activity. Responsibility for handling Section 508 complaints lies with the Department’s Civil Rights Center in OASAM. Additional information regarding filing a complaint can be found online.
The Department of Justice is required to coordinate with Federal agencies to provide biennial reports to the President and Congress on the current state of Federal accessibility. Agencies should keep track of documented nonavailability determinations and exceptions to Section 508 for future reporting to the Department of Justice.