Compliance Office: Congress Should Follow Section 508

The federal Office of Compliance is recommending that Section 508 regulations apply to Congress as well as to federal agencies.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires executive branch agencies to make their Web sites accessible to people with disabilities and to purchase accessible information technology. It requires equal access for people with disabilities to the federal government's electronic and information technology, to the extent that providing comparable access does not pose an undue burden.

The rule went into effect June 25, and although many House and Senate offices have taken steps toward complying with Section 508, they are not required to do so.

But the Office of Compliance, which monitors federal laws related to access to public services and accommodations, recommended Nov. 19 that the Section 508 rule also apply to lawmakers and their offices. The compliance office also said Section 508 should apply to the Government Printing Office, General Accounting Office and Library of Congress.

The Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 applies 11 civil rights, labor and workplace laws to legislative branch employees and establishes dispute resolution procedures and judicial remedies. It also instructs the board of the Office of Compliance to report to Congress on the applicability of other federal labor and workplace laws to the legislative branch.

The National Council on Disability applauded the compliance office recommendation. The council is independent federal agency making recommendations to the president and Congress on disability policy. There are 54 million Americans with disabilities.

The council's June 14 report, National Disability Policy: A Progress Report, urged Congress to amend the Congressional Accountability Act so that the Government Printing Office did not remain exempt from federal accessibility laws and regulations, including Section 508, as they pertain to Web sites.

"NCD encourages Congress to act promptly to incorporate these important recommendations from the Office of Compliance that will advance the civil rights of all people with disabilities," said Marca Bristo, NCD chairwoman.

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