Toolkit Table of Contents
Getting Started with the 508 Toolkit
There are four fundamental questions that you should address as you start planning and work. The questions will help you determine if 508 and the use of the toolkit applies to your project.
- Is the Product or Service Electronic and Information Technology?
- Do any Section 508 Exceptions Apply?
- Will the EIT pose an Undue Burden to the AGENCY?
- What Section 508 Standards Apply to the Product or Service?
This toolkit is for products or services that are electronic and information technology (EIT) as covered by the definition of EIT) under Section 508. If your product or service is not EIT, you do not need to use this toolkit. In such cases, we suggest that you document that you determined there was no EIT and Section 508 is not applicable for your records.
When there is EIT, make sure you identify if there is more than one type of EIT as there are different standards for different types of EIT. For example, a conference may have a Web site, a conference registration web-based application, presentations, and other types of EIT.
Definition of Electronic and Information Technology as defined by Section 508:
Electronic and information technology includes information technology and any equipment or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment that is used in the creation, conversion, or duplication of data or information. The term electronic and information technology includes, but is not limited to, telecommunications products (such as telephones), information kiosks and transaction machines, World Wide Web sites, multimedia, and office equipment such as copiers and fax machines. The term does not include any equipment that contains embedded information technology that is used as an integral part of the product, but the principal function of which is not the acquisition, storage, manipulation, management, movement, control, display, switching, interchange, transmission, or reception of data or information. For example, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) equipment such as thermostats or temperature control devices, and medical equipment where information technology is integral to its operation, are not information technology.(Definition of Electronic and Information Technology)
In addition to HVAC equipment and medical equipment with embedded technology (refer to definition of EIT), the following electronic and information technology items does not fall under Section 508 requirements:
- Blank flash cards (also called USB flash, disk drive or memory stick)
- External hard drives
- Blank disks, blank CDs, blank video tapes and blank DVDs (content added to these products must be accessible)
- Cables and power cords
- Ethernet cards and hubs
- Switch boxes
- Video splitters
There are exceptions to the Section 508 standards. Please note that at EPA, you must have approval of the delegated approving authority in your office to claim an exception.
There are several exceptions that may apply to your project. Certain exceptions have specific documentation requirements.
2.1. National SecuritySection 508 does not apply to any electronic and information technology operated or used by agencies that is directly used for intelligence activities, cryptologic activities related to national security, command of and control of military forces, is an integral part of a weapon or weapons system, or is a system critical to the direct fulfillment of military or intelligence missions.
This exception does not apply to a system that is to be used for routine administrative and business applications (including payroll, finance, logistics, and personnel management applications) by agencies involved in intelligence and military activities. For example, software used for payroll, word processing software used for production of routine documents, ordinary telephones, copiers, fax machines, and web applications must still comply with the standards even if they are developed, procured, maintained, or used by an agency engaged in intelligence or military activities.
If the National Security exception applies, document that this is for National Security. You are finished with the toolkit for this particular project. This exception will not apply to EPA except in rare or unusual circumstances.
2.2. EIT located in maintenance space
This exception is frequently called the "back office" exception. EIT products located in spaces frequented only by service personnel for maintenance, repair, or occasional monitoring of equipment are not required to comply with these standards.
This exception is often misunderstood as the back office exception truly only applies to areas that are visited on few occasions by service personnel. A telephone closet is an example of a back office and would be eligible for this exception.
If the “back office” exception applies, document that this is EIT located in maintenance space. You are finished with the toolkit for this particular project.
2.3. Incidental to a contract
The products a contractor develops, procures, maintains, or uses which are not specified as part of a contract with EPA are not required to comply with these standards. For example, a consulting firm that enters into a contract with an EPA office to produce a report is not required to procure accessible computers and word processing software to produce the report. Similarly, if a firm is contracted to develop a Web site for a Federal agency, the Web site created must be fully compliant with these standards, but the firm's own Web site would not be covered.
If the "incidental to a contract" exception applies, document that this EIT involved is for the contractor. You are finished with the toolkit for this particular project. However, any deliverables or services that the contractor turns over to EPA must be 508 compliant.
2.4. Commercial Non-Availability
Requires documentation of market research.
When procuring a product, EPA shall purchase products which comply with the applicable Section 508 standards if products are available in the commercial marketplace (COTS – commercial-off-the-shelf). If there is no COTS product that meets the applicable 508 technical requirements or cannot be furnished in time to satisfy the agency’s delivery requirements, then the agency can claim commercial non-availability – since an accessible product does not exist at that time. It is important to note that technology advances very quickly and this exception may only apply to a product for a limited time until newer technologies that are accessible are developed.
Agencies cannot claim a COTS product is commercially non-available because no product in the marketplace meets all the standards. If products are commercially available that meets some but not all of the standards, the agency must procure the product that best meets the standards and the AGENCY’s technical requirements.
Commercial non-availability cannot be applied to products that are developed in response to a federal government solicitation. All the applicable standards would need to be met for such products and services unless other 508 exceptions apply.
2.5. Fundamental AlterationFor your reference:
Requires documentation of market research.
Fundamental alternation means a change in the fundamental characteristic or purpose of the product or service, not merely a cosmetic or aesthetic change. For example, suppose EPA intends to procure portable pocket-sized pagers for field agents. Adding a large display to a small pager may fundamentally alter the device by significantly changing its size to such an extent that it no longer meets the purpose for which it was intended - to provide a portable communication device which fits in a shirt or jacket pocket. For some of these agents, portability of electronic equipment is a paramount concern. Generally, adding access should not change the basic purpose or characteristics of a product in a fundamental way.
This exception can apply to products that are developed in response to a federal government solicitation. Also, as a product or service is developed for the AGENCY, certain technological limitations or issues that would require a fundamental alteration may emerge at any time during the project life cycle. You do not always know from the start of a project that claiming the fundamental alteration exception may be necessary.
EPA EIT Approval Procedures
All purchase requests (PRs) for EIT must be:
- Approved by the requesting office's Senior Information Official (SIO), or Approved by the requesting office's Information Management Officer (IMO), Division Director or Branch Chief if the approving authority for acquisition of EIT resources was re-delegated in accordance with Delegation of Authority 1-84 Information Resources Management, Section 4.c.
- When EIT to be purchased falls within one of the exceptions outlined in Exceptions, it must be explained in an attachment to the PR.
- Undue burden and undue burden class determination cannot be approved below the SIO level (Delegation of Authority 1-84 Information Resources Management, Section 4.d. and EPA Undue Burden and Class Undue Burden Procedures).
Please refer to CIO Policy 2130.0 Accessible Electronic and Information Technology (PDF) (6 pp, 116KB, About PDF) and the accompanying procedure Accessible Electronic and Information Technology Standards, Procedures, and Guidance (PDF) (6 pp, 44K, About PDF), and Delegation of Authority 1-84 Information Resources Management, for more information about 508 policy at EPA.
EPA does not have to comply with the Section 508 standards if it would impose an undue burden to do so in order to acquire a specific EIT product or service. "Undue burden" has been defined as "significant difficulty or expense." However, the AGENCY must explain why meeting the standards would pose an undue burden for a given procurement action, and must still provide people with disabilities access to the information or data that is affected. Because the AGENCY's entire resources are looked at as a whole for justifying an undue burden request, it is not used as an exception very often.
The Program Office or Region purchasing the EIT must provide an undue burden justification. The justification must be reviewed and approved by the requiring office's SIO as per the CIO Policy 2130.0 Accessible Electronic and Information Technology.
The Section 508 standards are designed to make sure that not one single perceptual sense or ability is required to accomplish a task and to provide an alternative for a person to use a different sense or ability when using electronic and information technology.
Example: Typically, most people navigate through a Web site or software with a mouse, but the alternative for someone with vision or dexterity impairments may be the use of the keyboard to navigate and execute commands.
Certain 508 standards either always apply or need to be considered, while other standards only apply depending on the project. It is a good idea to look over all of the standards and make sure you have considered everything.
508 Standards that always apply or need to be considered:
- One mode of operation and information retrieval that does not require user vision
- One mode of operation and information retrieval that does not require visual acuity greater than 20-70
- One mode of operation and information retrieval that does not require user hearing
- When audio information is important or use of product, at least one mode of operation and information retrieval that does not require user hearing shall be provided in an enhanced auditory fashion.
- One mode of operation and information retrieval that does not require user speech
- One mode of operation and information retrieval that does not require fine motor control or simultaneous actions
End-Users with disabilities shall have access at no additional charge to:
- Product support documentation
- Description of the accessibility and capability features of products in alternate formats or alternate methods upon request
- Support services that accommodate communication needs of users with disabilities
The Section 508 Standards that may apply:
Please note that because there are many standards for each section, they are not listed here. Please use the links provided to get the complete list of the standards.
1194.21 Software applications and operating systems.
Operating systems and application software programs; also includes software that may come bundled with other products like copiers, handheld devices, phones, etc.
1194.22 Web-based intranet and internet information and applications.
Web sites (the information content and the associated applications and plug-ins) and web-based interfaces to other E&IT products or systems. The standards apply only to Federal Internet and Intranet sites.
1194.23 Telecommunications products.
Devices including wired, analog and digital wireless, and internet based products.
1194.24 Video and multimedia products.
Audio/visual equipment (legacy analog and digital systems) as well as the audio/visual content on Web sites, video programs, narrated slide productions, and computer generated presentations.
1194.25 Self contained, closed products.
Kiosks, information transaction machines, copiers, printers, calculators, fax machines, and similar types of products.
1194.26 Desktop and portable computers.
Keyboards and other mechanically operated controls, touch screens use of biometric forms of identification, and ports and connectors.