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600.6 - Implementation and Administration of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act


Date: 04/05/2019

OPR: Office of Enterprise Information

Instruction: This revises Survey Manual (SM) Chapter 600.6, dated August 13, 2003.



1.  Purpose and Scope. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires Federal agencies to ensure that employees and members of the public who have disabilities have access and use of information that is comparable to the access and use of information by individuals who are not disabled, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency. The Act also requires that all information and communication technology (ICT) developed, procured, maintained, or used by all Federal agencies, on or after June 21, 2001, must meet the accessibility requirements.


2.  Authorities.

A. 29 U.S.C. 794d, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

B. 48 CFR Parts 2, 7,10, 11, 12, and 39, Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Rule for Implementing Section 508 of the Rehabilitation 

C. 36 CFR 1193, Telecommunications Act Accessibility Guidelines as amended by the U.S. Access Board, dated January 2017

D. 36 CFR 1194, Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards as amended by the U.S. Access Board, dated January 2017

E. 48 CFR Parts 31, Contract Cost Principles and Procedures


3. References.

A. 29 U.S.C. § 794, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

B. E-Government Act of 2002, Pub. Law No. 107-347

C. Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996, Pub. Law No. 104-106, 110 Stat. 186

D. 43 C.F.R. Part 17, Non-discrimination in Federally-Assisted Programs of the Department of the Interior 

E. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-130, Section 8 Management of Federal Information Resources


4.  Policy. Section 508 requires the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to ensure any ICT it develops, procures, uses, or maintains is accessible to both Federal employees and members of the public with disabilities.  In accordance with Section 508, Federal employees and members of the public with disabilities shall have access to and use of information and data comparable to that available to other Federal employees and individuals without disabilities. All offices must ensure that ICT products and services that are developed, procured, maintained, or used by the USGS are accessible to individuals with disabilities and comply with the Section 508 Accessibility Standards. Section 508 Accessibility Standards factor in circumstances that allow for the provision of information or data in an alternate method or format if procurement of certain technology would constitute an undue burden. In such instances, the information and data shall be provided within a reasonable time period after use of the product or service begins.


5.  Definitions.

A. Accessibility is a change that allows individuals with disabilities to have access and use of information comparable to that available to individuals who do not have disabilities.

B. Alternate Formats are formats usable by people with disabilities. These formats may include, but are not limited to, Braille, American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) text, large print, recorded audio, and electronic formats. 

C. Alternate Methods are different means of providing information, including product documentation, to people with disabilities. Alternate methods may include, but are not limited to, voice, fax, relay service, TTY, internet posting, captioning, Braille, text-to-speech synthesis, and audio description.

D. Assistive Technology refers to any item, piece of equipment, or system, whether acquired commercially, modified, or customized, that is commonly used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.

E. Equivalent Facilitation is the use of designs or technologies as alternatives to those prescribed in the Section 508 Accessibility Standards, provided they result in substantially equivalent or greater access to and use of a product for people with disabilities.

F. Fundamental Alteration is a change in the fundamental characteristic or purpose of the product or service, not merely a cosmetic or aesthetic change.

G. Government Product/Service Accessibility Template (GPAT) is a Solicitation documentation tool to assist Federal contracting and procurement officials in fulfilling the market research requirements associated with Section 508 Accessibility Standards. The GPAT is intended as a form to be included with government solicitations, to be filled out by solicitation respondents as a part of their proposal to indicate how their proposed solution addresses the applicable Section 508 Accessibility Standards.

H. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) includes information technology and other equipment, systems, technologies, or processes for which the principal function is the creation, manipulation, storage, display, receipt, or transmission of electronic data and information, as well as any associated content. Examples of ICT include:

(1) Computers and peripheral equipment;

(2) Software;

(3) Telecommunications equipment;

(4) Information kiosks and transaction machines;

(5) Websites;

(6) Videos or multimedia products;

(7) Computer tablets;

(8) Mobile devices;

(9) Office equipment such as copiers and fax machines;

(10) Electronic documents;

(11) Customer premises equipment such as telephones, routers, and internet access gateways; and

(12) ICT support services such as help desks, call centers, and training services.

I. Information Technology is any equipment or interconnected system, or subsystem of equipment used in the automatic acquisition, storage, manipulation, management, movement, control, display, switching, interchange, transmission, or reception of data or information. The term information technology includes computers, ancillary equipment, software, firmware and similar procedures, services (including support services), and related resources.

J. Person with a Disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities or has a record of such impairment. In general, this includes individuals with a significant vision, hearing, dexterity, cognitive, or mobility impairment.

K. Self-Contained, Closed Products are products that generally have embedded

software and are commonly designed in such a fashion that a user cannot easily attach or install assistive technology. These products include, but are not limited to, information kiosks and information transaction machines, copiers, printers, calculators, fax machines, and other similar types of products.

L. Telecommunications is the transmission of information, between points specified by the user, without change in the form or content of the information as sent and received.

M. Undue Burden describes a change that means significant difficulty or expense.

N. WCAG 2.0 AA refers to the standards of the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.  The World Wide Web Consortium issues WCAGs as the organization that creates universal rules for internet programming.  The Section 508 requirements closely resemble the WCAG 2.0 AA standards.


6.    Responsibilities.

A. Associate Directors, Regional Directors, Science Center Directors, and Office Chiefs are responsible for ensuring staff compliance with the requirements provided by the U.S. Access Board to meet Section 508 Accessibility Standards.

B. USGS Section 508 Coordinator is responsible for the following:

(1) Development and implementation of policies, procedures and training for testing and evaluating ICT products, services, and websites to ensure they meet the Section 508 Accessibility Standards effectively;

(2) Responding to all inquiries or complaints relating to Section 508;

(3) Oversight of Section 508 compliance and coordinate with the Department Section 508 oversight authority, and other Federal Agencies on Section 508 matters;

(4) Preparation of the USGS response to the biannual Department of the Interior Bureau Section 508 Assessment report, and the Department of Justice Section 508 questionnaire;

(5) Assembling a Section 508 IT Accessibility Team to assist with the implementation of Section 508 policy, procedures, and accessibility design standards;

(6) Coordinating the integration of Section 508 accessibility needs into Bureau budget and operational, strategic and capital plans; and

(7) Reviewing Government Product/Service Accessibility Templates (GPATs) and new purchase requests to determine compliance of the associated ICT with applicable Section 508 standards.

C. Supervisors who oversee the design, development, procurement, or use of ICT are responsible for ensuring that the applicable technical standards and procedural requirements of Section 508 are met by their staff.

D. Office of Communications and Publishing (OCAP) coordinates the guidance for the creation and posting of publications and external Web communication created in compliance with Section 508.

E. Office of Acquisition and Grants (OAG) is responsible for reviewing and complying with FAR 11.002(f), 12.202(d), and 39.2 by ensuring the Section 508 Accessibility Standards are considered in acquisition planning documents and procurement requirements for ICT and that deliverables meet accessibility standards.

F. Contracting Officer’s Representatives and Requiring or Program Officials (in other words, those officials from the office seeking the procurement) are responsible for:

(1) Including appropriate Section 508 Accessibility Standards in acquisition planning and solicitation requirement documents;

(2) Ensuring vendors provide adequate testing and documentation demonstrating compliance with the Section 508 Accessibility Standards;

(3) Verifying that products or services delivered meet the accessibility terms and conditions included in the contract prior to accepting deliverables; and

(4) Documenting the applicable ICT exceptions (See Section 8, Specific Exceptions and Waivers), results of market research, and the basis for selection of items, including a Section 508 alternatives analysis.

G. Mobile Application Developers and Program Writers are responsible for ensuring mobile applications and executable programs address accessibility in development and execution.

H. All USGS Employees involved in the design, development, procurement, or use of ICT have a responsibility to meet the applicable technical standards and procedural requirements of Section 508 or document the exemption. Activities include those related to the following:

(1) Developing and/or managing intranet or internet content;

(2) Developing or modifying applications, software, or operating systems;

(3) Purchasing technology or contracting services that require addressing Section 508 Accessibility Standards;

(4) Requesting exemptions (Refer to Section 8. Specific Exceptions and Waivers) from the USGS Section 508 Coordinator:

a. Purchases made by Purchase Card holders comply with Section 508 Accessibility Standards;

b. Creating or modifying electronic documents for dissemination internally or externally; and

c. Ensuring that videos and multimedia products created for dissemination internally or externally comply with the Section 508 Accessibility.


7.    Provision of Assistive Technology. All USGS offices must provide employees with disabilities assistive technology (in other words, any accessibility-related software, hardware, or peripheral devices, as an accommodation to be able to use certain technology). Assistive technology is commonly used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities. For example, to use a word-processing program that does not already include an accessibility function, a person who is blind may need add-on software that reads text aloud.  Other examples of assistive technology include magnifying software, refreshable braille displays, speech recognition software, text telephones (TTY/TDD), and video relay services.


8.    Specific Exceptions and Waivers. The Section 508 Accessibility Standards factor in circumstances that allow for exceptions for undue burden, fundamental alteration, and commercial non-availability that require written approval by the USGS Section 508 Coordinator. Exceptions should be requested via email to

A. Undue Burden is defined as when compliance with the Section 508 Accessibility Standards would pose a significant difficulty or expense. Under FAR 39.204 (e), this waiver must be supported by a written determination explaining the significant difficulty or expense, describing the program resources available, and demonstrating why compliance creates an undue burden. The undue burden determination must be approved and signed by the USGS Associate Chief Information Officer. A copy will be retained by the Bureau Section 508 Coordinator, the USGS Office of Acquisition and Grants, and the DOI Section 508 Coordinator. The original will be returned to the contract file. For submitting the undue burden waiver, at a minimum, the significant difficulty or expense must be substantiated with the following documentation:

(1) Products or services required to meet the Bureau/office needs and the estimated cost of acquiring the products or services, including all options;

(2) Significant difficulty or expense the program or component would incur to comply with a particular standard(s), and, if the expense is deemed prohibitive, explain the costs and how they were estimated;

(3) Market research conducted and subsequent findings to locate the product or service that meet the applicable provisions of the Section 508 Accessibility Standards; and

(4) The plan for providing information to persons with disabilities.

B. Fundamental Alteration means a change in the fundamental characteristic or purpose of the product or service that is not merely cosmetic or aesthetic. This will require USGS personnel to provide an alternative means that meets identified needs. For submitting a fundamental alteration waiver, the documentation shall include an explanation of why and to what extent compliance with applicable requirements would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of the ICT.

C. Commercial Non-Availability is when all the accessibility requirements are not commercially available in time to meet Bureau needs as documented in market research. Commercial non-availability determinations must be documented in writing and based on market research. The requesting official shall document the following:

(1) The non-availability of conforming ICT, including a description of market research performed and which provisions of the Section 508 Accessibility Standards cannot be met, and

(2) The basis for determining that the ICT to be procured best meets the requirements in the Section 508 Accessibility Standards consistent with the agency’s business needs.  The FAR sets forth the documentation requirements for a determination of commercial non-availability by Federal agencies subject to Section 508 requirements, see 66 Fed. Reg. 20894 (April 25, 2001).


9.  Enforcement. Any individual with a disability can file a complaint alleging that the USGS has not complied with Section 508 Accessibility Standards. The USGS will respond within 15 working days upon receipt of an official complaint submitted via the USGS complaint process. The response will include a plan to remedy the complaint or provide comparable access through alternate methods.

A. Section 508 complaints shall be submitted in writing to the USGS Section 508 Coordinator: USGS Section 508 Coordinator 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, MS159, Reston, VA 20192 or send an email to

B. Complaints must be submitted within 180 days of the incident that gave rise to the complaint. The complaint should include sufficient details of the alleged failure to procure accessible technology in compliance with Section 508 that will enable the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to understand what occurred, as well as where and when it occurred. In accordance with 43 C.F.R. Part 17.339, an individual may file a civil action if the USGS fails to make a finding within 180 days or issues a finding in favor of the USGS.


10.  General Exceptions. General exceptions to the Section 508 requirements are set forth in the U.S. Access Board regulation at 36 C.F.R. 1194.3 and in FAR 39.204. The regulations exempt the following acquisitions from application of the standards:

A. ICT purchased prior to October 1, 2004, using micro-purchase procedures ($3,500 or less);

B. ICT for a national security system;

C. ICT acquired by a contractor incidental to a contract;

D. ICT located in spaces frequented only by service personnel for maintenance, repair, or occasional monitoring of equipment; or

E. Modifying existing ICT to the extent that it would impose an undue burden on the agency.


11.  Expiration Date. This policy must be reviewed biennially or more frequently, as needed.



/s/ Katherine M. McCulloch                                                                    04/05/19

_____________________________                                                    __________

Katherine M. McCulloch                                                                          Date

Associate Director for Administration