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Re: Accessible Applications

for

From: Darian Glover
Date: May 13, 2008 10:40PM


There is has been a very thoughtful discussion on what I previously wrote
(see below). I did not intend to imply that VPATs themselves were required
by law. This is not the place to discuss the finer details between Federal
law, regulations, policy, mandates, guidance, etc. and I am no lawyer. But
I will try to break it down if only academic purposes.

As some have pointed out the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) has
language that requires agency heads to ensure "acquisition
planners...address Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility
Standards." The FAR goes on to state a policy to "assess the availability
of electronic and information technology." The FAR requirement for "market
research" cites a subpart that states "The requiring official must document
in writing the nonavailability, including a description of market research
performed and which standards cannot be met, and provide documentation to
the contracting officer for inclusion in the contract file." (Full text of
all of this is below.)

We have the law (Section 508). We have a regulation (FAR) that provides
related policy and requirements. The key piece to take away is that during
the procurement process documentation is required on "which standards cannot
be met."

This is where VPATs come in. Or more specifially an industry group and the
General Services Administration:

"The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) is committed to helping
the Federal Government implement Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. In
2001, ITI partnered with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to
create a simple, Internet-based tool to assist Federal contracting and
procurement officials in fulfilling the new market research requirements
contained in the Section 508 implementing regulations. The result: the
Voluntary Product Accessibility Template(TM), or VPAT(TM)."

Who is this ITI? According to their web site they are "the premier group of
the nation's leading high-tech companies and widely recognized as the tech
industry's most effective lobbying organization in Washington, in various
foreign capitals, and the WTO." Their membership includes the likes of
Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, and even eBay.

So documentation on how procured Electronic and Information Technology (EIT)
is not accessible is required. An industry group worked with the GSA to
produce a standard way of documenting this, the VPAT. Other forms of
documentation will do, but why reinvent the wheel?

Now there may be a question as to what exactly is EIT. That's defined in:

36 CFR Part 1194
Subpart B — Technical Standards

1194.21 Software applications and operating systems.
1194.22 Web-based intranet and internet information and applications.
1194.23 Telecommunications products.
1194.24 Video and multimedia products.
1194.25 Self contained, closed products.
1194.26 Desktop and portable computers.


All of this is only a small amount of the paperwork we have here in
Washington, DC. Some very well intentioned red tape. Again, I'm not a
lawyer nor am a procurement official. I'm a cog that tries to keep things
moving forward.


Darian.



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Section 508

"In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require Federal
agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to
people with disabilities. Inaccessible technology interferes with an
individual's ability to obtain and use information quickly and easily.
Section 508 was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, to
make available new opportunities for people with disabilities, and to
encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals.
The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure,
maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Under Section 508
(29 U.S.C. ' 794d), agencies must give disabled employees and members of the
public access to information that is comparable to the access available to
others. It is recommended that you review the laws and regulations listed
below to further your understanding about Section 508 and how you can
support implementation."


"Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) - Prohibits discrimination and
ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state
and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities,
and transportation. The ADA requires that reasonable accommodations be
provided in meeting the needs of individuals with disabilities. Additional
technical assistance regarding the ADA is available through the ADA
Technical Assistance Program."

"Assistive Technology Act of 1998 - The Assistive Technology Act establishes
a grant program, administered by the U.S. Department of Education, to
provide Federal funds to support State programs that address the assistive
technology needs of individuals with disabilities."

"Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 - Section 255 of the
requires manufacturers of telecommunications equipment and providers of
telecommunications services to ensure that such equipment and services are
accessible to persons with disabilities, if readily achievable. The Federal
Communications Commission's Report and Order Implementing Section 255 was
released in September 1999."

"Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act - Section 501 of this act prohibits
discrimination on the basis of disability in Federal employment and requires
Federal agencies to establish affirmative action plans for the hiring,
placement, and advancement of people with disabilities in Federal
employment. Additional information and definitions related to Section 501
can be found at theEEOC website."

"Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act - Section 504 prohibits
discrimination based on disability in federally funded and federally
conducted programs or activities in the United States, including employment
programs.Additional information and definitions related to Section 504 can
be found at the Department of Labor website."

"Section 505 of the Rehabilitation Act - Section 505 establishes the
enforcement procedures for title V of the Rehabilitation Act. Section 505
(a) (1) provides that the procedures and rights set forth in Section 717 of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964 shall be available with respect to any
complaint under Section 501. Section 505 (a)(2) provides that the remedies,
rights and procedures set forth in title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
shall be available to any person alleging a violation of Section 504.
Section 508 is also enforced through the procedures established in Section
505 (a)(2)."

"The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access
Board) issued final guidelines for accessibility, usability and
compatibility of telecommunications equipment and customer premises
equipment covered by Section 255 of the Telecommunication Act of 1996."

"Workforce Investment Act of 1998. Congress significantly strengthened
section 508 in the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. Its primary purpose is
to provide access to and use of Federal executive agencies' electronic and
information technology (EIT) by individuals with disabilities. "


Source: http://www.section508.gov/

36 CFR Part 1194
Subpart B — Technical Standards

1194.21 Software applications and operating systems.
1194.22 Web-based intranet and internet information and applications.
1194.23 Telecommunications products.
1194.24 Video and multimedia products.
1194.25 Self contained, closed products.
1194.26 Desktop and portable computers.

Source: http://www.access-board.gov/sec508/standards.htm

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FAR

7.103 Agency-head responsibilities.

The agency head or a designee shall prescribe procedures for—

(o) Ensuring that acquisition planners specify needs and develop plans,
drawings, work statements, specifications, or other product descriptions
that address Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards
(see 36 CFR Part 1194) in proposed acquisitions (see 11.002(e)) and that
these standards are included in requirements planning, as appropriate (see
Subpart 39.2).



10.001 Policy.
(2) Conduct market research appropriate to the circumstances—
(vii) Assess the availability of electronic and information technology that
meets all or part of the applicable accessibility standards issued by the
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board at 36 CFR Part
1194 (see Subpart 39.2).



11.002 Policy.
(e) Some or all of the performance levels or performance specifications in a
solicitation may be identified as targets rather than as fixed or minimum
requirements.

(f) In accordance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29
U.S.C. 794d), requiring activities must prepare requirements documents for
electronic and information technology that comply with the applicable
accessibility standards issued by the Architectural and Transportation
Barriers Compliance Board at 36 CFR Part 1194 (see Subpart 39.2)


Subpart 12.2—Special Requirements for the Acquisition of Commercial Items

12.202 Market research and description of agency need.

(d) Requirements documents for electronic and information technology must
comply with the applicable accessibility standards issued by the
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board at 36 CFR Part
1194 (see Subpart 39.2).



39.201 Scope of subpart.

(a) This subpart implements Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
(29 U.S.C. 794d), and the Architectural and Transportation Barriers
Compliance Board Electronic and Information Technology (EIT) Accessibility
Standards (36 CFR Part 1194).

(b) Further information on Section 508 is available via the Internet at
http://www.section508.gov.

(c) When acquiring EIT, agencies must ensure that—

(1) 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; and

(2) Members of the public with disabilities seeking information or services
from an agency have access to and use of information and data that is
comparable to the access to and use of information and data by members of
the public who are not individuals with disabilities.
39.202 Definition.

Undue burden, as used in this subpart, means a significant difficulty or
expense.
39.203 Applicability.

(a) Unless an exception at 39.204 applies, acquisitions of EIT supplies and
services must meet the applicable accessibility standards at 36 CFR Part
1194.

(b)(1) Exception determinations are required prior to contract award, except
for indefinite-quantity contracts (see paragraph (b)(2) of this section).

(2) Exception determinations are not required prior to award of
indefinite-quantity contracts, except for requirements that are to be
satisfied by initial award. Contracting offices that award
indefinite-quantity contracts must indicate to requiring and ordering
activities which supplies and services the contractor indicates as
compliant, and show where full details of compliance can be found (e.g.,
vendor's or other exact website location).

(3) Requiring and ordering activities must ensure supplies or services meet
the applicable accessibility standards at 36 CFR Part 1194, unless an
exception applies, at the time of issuance of task or delivery orders.
Accordingly, indefinite-quantity contracts may include noncompliant items;
however, any task or delivery order issued for noncompliant items must meet
an applicable exception.

(c)(1) When acquiring commercial items, an agency must comply with those
accessibility standards that can be met with supplies or services that are
available in the commercial marketplace in time to meet the agency's
delivery requirements.

(2) The requiring official must document in writing the nonavailability,
including a description of market research performed and which standards
cannot be met, and provide documentation to the contracting officer for
inclusion in the contract file.

39.204 Exceptions.

The requirements in 39.203 do not apply to EIT that—

(a) Is purchased in accordance with Subpart 13.2 (micro-purchases) prior to
April 1, 2005. However, for micro-purchases, contracting officers and other
individuals designated in accordance with 1.603-3 are strongly encouraged to
comply with the applicable accessibility standards to the maximum extent
practicable;

(b) Is for a national security system;

(c) Is acquired by a contractor incidental to a contract;

(d) Is located in spaces frequented only by service personnel for
maintenance, repair or occasional monitoring of equipment; or

(e) Would impose an undue burden on the agency.

(1) Basis. In determining whether compliance with all or part of the
applicable accessibility standards in 36 CFR Part 1194 would be an undue
burden, an agency must consider—

(i) The difficulty or expense of compliance; and

(ii) Agency resources available to its program or component for which the
supply or service is being acquired.

(2) Documentation.

(i) The requiring official must document in writing the basis for an undue
burden decision and provide the documentation to the contracting officer for
inclusion in the contract file.

(ii) When acquiring commercial items, an undue burden determination is not
required to address individual standards that cannot be met with supplies or
service available in the commercial marketplace in time to meet the agency
delivery requirements (see 39.203(c)(2) regarding documentation of
nonavailability).


Source: http://acquisition.gov/far/

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VPAT

The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) is committed to helping
the Federal Government implement Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. In
2001, ITI partnered with the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to
create a simple, Internet-based tool to assist Federal contracting and
procurement officials in fulfilling the new market research requirements
contained in the Section 508 implementing regulations. The result: the
Voluntary Product Accessibility TemplateTM, or VPATTM.

Source:
http://www.itic.org/archives/articles/20040506/faq_voluntary_product_accessibility_template_vpat.php

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On Mon, May 12, 2008 at 5:27 PM, Darian Glover wrote:

>
> The U.S. Federal Government mandated that all technology, software and
> hardware, be accessible with Section 508. During procurement a Voluntary
> Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) is required from the vendor. Yes,
> it's labeled voluntary but is required. Adherence to this requirement
> varies within the government, but is increasing.
>
> Most vendors who deal with the government comply by producing VPATs for
> their products. This does not mean the products are 100% accessible. The
> job of the VPAT is to identify how accessible the product is. Most people
> acknowledge we are a ways off from having everything comply with Section 508
> or be accessible. (Just because something complies with the letter of
> Section 508 does not mean it is accessible in spirit or practice.)
>
> Example VPATs:
> http://www.adobe.com/resources/accessibility/tools/vpat/
> http://www.microsoft.com/industry/government/products/section508.mspx
>
> Information on the VPAT for vendors:
>
> http://www.itic.org/archives/articles/20040506/faq_voluntary_product_accessibility_template_vpat.php
>
>
> Darian.
>
>
>