DOJ previously reported mixed success in federal website accessibility
The latest DOJ report, from 2012, had “identified substantial gaps in Section 508 compliance across the federal government and included recommendations for agencies to meet their accessibility requirement,” the senators wrote. For example, the DOJ reported a “mixed levels of success” in implementing Section 508, and recommended that agencies increase training, appoint 508 coordinators, and establish 508 offices or programs.
It is unclear why the DOJ stopped issuing these biennial reports, as well as whether it collected Section 508 compliance data or issued recommendations more recently than 2012. Questions remain on whether the DOJ has the resources and personnel necessary to comply with the law and issue these reports, and what its plans are to begin meeting the reporting requirement. The senators said they want answers regarding the situation by July 29.
Why is accessibility important?
Within the U.S., 26% of Americans live with a disability. Yet, a 2021 report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation found that 30% of the most popular federal websites did not pass an automated accessibility test for their homepage and 48% of those sites failed the test on at least one of their three most popular pages.
“Without accessible websites and other information technology, people with disabilities aren’t treated equally under the law,” Casey said.
Johnson, of the foundation, said that the fact that the DOJ hasn’t reported on the federal government’s compliance over the last decade speaks to a larger issue of disabled people not being prioritized by society at large.
“We’re all so used to having information at our fingertips, literally on our phones. But if you have a disability, and you can’t get that information from the agencies,” Casey said.
“It just flies in the face of not just transparency, but what our society has come to expect in terms of the ability for people to access information,” he added. “So we look forward to [the DOJ’s] answers and those answers will help us get a better sense of what’s happening and what next steps have to be taken.”