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U.S. Federal Government Section 508 Policy – 2001 v. 2012

Timothy Stephen Springer 09/24/12

As we reviewed the newly released September 2012 Section 508 Report to the President and Congress, we were curious to compare the U.S. Federal Government results with prior reports to determine where, comparatively, the government has moved over time.  Specifically, we were interested in comparing the last publicly available report – the survey results from 2001 with the results with the recently-published 2011 survey.

These radically different surveys, conducted ten years apart, are limited in the areas in which they are easily comparable. However, one area that did jump out as comparable was the state of Section 508 policy.  We examined responses to specific policy questions in the 2001 results and in the recent 2011 results.  One specific comparison question between the two surveys provided a good method of tracking the adoption of Section 508 compliance policies throughout the U.S. Federal Government.  In the 2001 survey the DoJ asked “Has your agency established web accessibility guidelines to ensure that your web pages – Internet and Intranet – are accessible to people with disabilities?”  In the 2011 survey, the DoJ asked a similar question related to “whether agency components established a formal, written policy to implement and comply with Section 508.”

The response options are relatively comparable between the survey results with the comparable response options of (i) yes, (ii) no, but we are planning to do so and (iii) no, and we are not planning to do so.  The 2001 survey also offered the highly ambiguous “Yes and no. Some parts of our agency have done so while others have not” while the 2011 survey offered the less ambiguous, and thankfully used only by two agencies, option of “Don’t know.”

To compare the survey results we rounded up for the 2001 survey reporting the “Yes and no” option as a “yes” and for the 2011 survey results for “Don’t know” went under “No,” since if you have a policy but nobody knows about it, you don’t really have a policy. The normalized results can then tell us whether agencies have a good, current Section 508 policy that they utilize.  The results across the government follow:

Response

2001

2011

Delta

Yes

59.2%

51.3%

-7.9%

No, but a timetable to do so

38.2%

24.2%

-14.0%

No, no plans

2.6%

24.5%

21.9%

These results are not encouraging.

Fewer agencies reported having a full or partial web accessibility policy in 2001 than reported having a Section 508 policy ten years later.  About half of all Federal agencies in 2011 did not have a policy, an increase of 7.9% from the 2001 period.  The number of agencies that reported having no policy and no plans to develop one jumped by a factor of ten to one in five Federal agencies.  The number of agencies that stated they had no policy but had a timeline for adopting a policy – those that might even try to comply – fell by over 37% to one in four agencies.

In summary, SSB concludes that these data indicate the following:

  • There has been a decline in the last ten years in the number of Federal government agencies that have Section 508 policies in place;
  • Agencies that did not have a policy have largely moved from even indicating a timeline to build a policy to having no policy and no timeline to put one in place.
  • There has been a drastic increase in agencies with no Section 508 policy and no plans to implement one.

As a long time watcher of the Section 508 market, SSB strongly encourages agencies to take the necessary steps to conform to Federal law.  Section 508 conformance is a key part of ensuring that we as a society offer participatory opportunities to all individuals, including people with disabilities.  As we are fond of saying here at SSB, everyone gets to play. Conforming to and enforcing the Section 508 requirements is a key part of that.

Reference Data

2001 Survey – Question C-3

Question C-3: Has your agency established web accessibility guidelines to ensure that your web pages – Internet and Intranet – are accessible to people with disabilities?

Answer

Overall

Large Agencies

Mid-size Agencies

Small Agencies

Very Small Agencies

Yes, our agency has established such guidelines and they are in place.

39 / 76

51.32%

8 / 18

44.44%

15 / 21

71.43%

11 / 21

52.38%

5 / 16

31.25%

No, but we have established a timetable for doing so.

29 / 76

38.16%

7 / 18

38.89%

3 / 21

14.29%

9 / 21

42.86%

10 / 16

62.50%

No, and we have no such plans.

2 / 76

2.63%

0 / 18

0.00%

1 / 21

4.76%

1 / 21

4.76%

0 / 16

0.00%

Yes and no. Some parts of our agency have done so while others have not.

6 / 76

7.89%

3 / 18

16.67%

2 / 21

9.52%

0 / 21

0.00%

1 / 16

6.25%

Total

76

18

21

21

16

2011 Survey – Question 1

Answer

All

Very Large

Large

Mid-Size

Small

Very Small

(a) Yes, a formal, written policy was established

163 (51.3%)

103 (57.9%)

36 (52.9%)

7 (38.9%)

8 (28.6%)

9 (34.6%)

(b) No, but a timetable was established to do so

77 (24.2%)

34 (19.1%)

9 (13.2%)

9 (50.0%)

13 (46.4%)

12 (46.2%)

(c) No, and there were no plans to do so

76 (23.9%)

41 (23.0%)

23 (33.8%)

2 (11.1%)

7 (25.0%)

3 (11.5%)

(d) Don’t know

2 (0.6%)

0 (0.0%)

0 (0.0%)

0 (0.0%)

0 (0.0%)

2 (7.7%)

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