A group of senators sent a letter to Robin Carnahan, administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA), earlier this month requesting a progress update on the accessibility of Federal technology and public-facing websites for people with disabilities, and senior citizens.
Sens. Bob Casey Jr., D-Pa., Tim Scott, R-S.C., Gary Peters, D-Mich., Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Patty Murray, D-Wash., wrote the letter to check in on agencies’ progress in adhering to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires government information technology to be accessible for individuals with disabilities. Sen. Casey is the chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, and Sen. Scott is the ranking member.
“Given the current absence of public, government-wide evaluations of Federal technology accessibility, it is critical that GSA’s timely data and analysis be made available to Congress so that we may better evaluate compliance with and the effectiveness of existing accessibility laws and programs,” the letter says.
Twice per year, agencies are required to report to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on their IT accessibility and Section 508 program maturity and effectiveness. GSA and the CIO Council’s Accessibility Community of Practice analyze these agency reports to find ways to improve accessibility.
The senators wrote that while the Department of Justice (DoJ) is required by law to submit reports to Congress and the president on Section 508 compliance every other year, it has not done so since 2012.
“Given the current lack of public information on Section 508 compliance, we request that GSA provide the most recent Section 508 data and analysis it has collected and urge the agency to consider making all future reports public,” the senators wrote.
“We further request that GSA provide all summary reports, trend analysis, or other analyses or recommendations from 2019 through 2022 that found ‘ways to improve collaboration across agencies, reduce redundancies, and develop solutions to improve the management of government accessibility programs,’” they added.
The senators also requested information on how many agencies have not provided mandated metrics for the biannual report, as well as how they are held accountable.
Additionally, they requested answers on whether or not GSA would be able to share information with the DoJ for its Section 508 report or if additional steps are needed to allow such information sharing, such as through “funding, staffing, or statutory authority.”