OMB memo outlines digital accessibility expectations for federal agencies

The memo on Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act comes amid extensive frustration with federal website accessibility.
White House on deep blue sky background in Washington DC, USA. (Image credit: Getty Images)

The Office of Management and Budget released a Thursday memorandum to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires agencies to offer equal access to electronic information and data for individuals with disabilities.

Almost half of the most popular federal government websites are not fully accessible, according to an OMB press release. Per the new memorandum, all agencies must deliver an accessible digital experience, establish programs and policies for digital accessibility, procure products and services that are fully accessible, monitor and remediate issues that arise with creating an accessible customer experience and cultivate a “positive culture” of online accessibility.

Through the standards issued by the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, or the U.S. Access Board, agencies must meet technical requirements when purchasing information and communication technology products and services.

In a timeline laid out in the memo, agencies are responsible for requirements including the establishing of digital accessibility statements on all agency sites and implementing a public feedback mechanism for receiving complaints or reports about accessibility issues. The guidance stated that agencies will then have to “begin to track, review and address feedback” within 90 days.


Though the memorandum “does not apply to national security systems,” agencies are encouraged to utilize the guidance in the management of national security systems when it’s possible.

The memorandum states that it “provides requirements and recommendations to support agency integration of digital accessibility into their missions and operations, with the end goal of helping government technology and information resources better serve a diverse public and federal workforce.”

Governmentwide required actions also include the establishing and maintaining of a formal complaint process, which agencies are required to document, as well as how issues and complaints are reported, tracked and resolved.

The move to boost federal website accessibility comes amid ongoing frustration that the government isn’t doing enough to ensure everyone can access its websites.

Oversight of federal agency accessibility improvements has also remained a challenge.


Meanwhile, automated website scanning deployed by the General Services Administration shows that many federal agency websites do not meet accessibility standards. FedScoop previously reported that these scans have run into technical challenges.

GSA told FedScoop earlier this week that the agency is supposed to submit its report on government compliance with Section 508 next week. Agencies were supposed to share accessibility information with GSA in August.

Late last year, the Senate Committee on Aging released a wide-ranging investigation into the state of Section 508 compliance. The report concluded that federal agencies had failed to implement accessible technology systems and that the government accountability measures were not effectively tracking compliance and progress.

The GSA and Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who leads the Senate Aging Committee, did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated when GSA is supposed to submit its report on government compliance with Section 508. The deadline is next week.

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