Homeland Security 508 Compliance Office: A Promising Practice in Promoting Accessible IT
In October of 2004 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced it would create a state-of-the-art program to ensure that electronic and information technology is accessible to employees and consumers with disabilities. As Chief Information Officer Steve Cooper explained, "Making electronic and information technology accessible for people with disabilities is a good business management strategy." He added that "complying with Section 508 ensures our information technology will be more capable of responding to technology changes in future years. A strong accessibility program results in more flexibility, more portability, better designs, and better websites."
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 (508) requires that
when Federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, Federal employees with disabilities have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access and use by Federal employees who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency. Section 508 also requires that individuals with disabilities, who are members of the public seeking information or services from a Federal agency, have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that provided to the public who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency. (36 C.F.R. 1194.1)
The Department of Homeland Security's commitment to accessibility for people with disabilities, both employees and consumers, and its articulation of the value of accessible design create a model that can be emulated by others.