On August 7, 1998, the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which includes the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998, was signed into law. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments requires that when Federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, they shall ensure that Federal employees with disabilities have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access to and use of information and data by Federal employees without disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency. Section 508 also requires that members of the public who are individuals with disabilities, have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that provided to members of the public who are not individuals with disabilities.
The Department of the Navy Chief Information Officer (DON CIO) has established and is leading a Working Group to address Section 508 policy. Some of the steps taken by the Working Group to meet Section 508 compliance throughout the Department are:
•Educating the Department about Section 508 - what it means and why it is important
•Ensuring IT acquisition includes Section 508 compliance
•Assisting DON Web masters in understanding Section 508
•Providing a consistent process for designing compliant Web pages and Web based applications
The overall objective of the Section 508 Working Group's plan is to ensure that the intent of the law is met and that comparable access to information in the DON is equitable for everyone. Section 508 was certainly a consideration for the Department as we crafted the Navy Marine Corp Intranet (NMCI) contract. However, because the standards were not finalized by the Department of Defense, specific requirements for Section 508 compliance were not included in the NMCI contract. The intent of Section 508 is not to go back and try to make everything already in place compliant, but to ensure information accessibility is a part of everything we do as we move forward. The NMCI infrastructure is built in such a way as to accommodate accessibility.