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a computer Section 508 Rehab Act Complaint Procedure



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"What if I can't use information technology that is provided by the Federal government?"

The technology revolution of the last few years has resulted in the use of electronic formats that store and display a great deal of information. Section 508 seeks to ensure the accessibility of electronic and information technology used by Federal government employees as well as the accessibility of technology needed by consumers to access information provided by the Federal government.


When to use this procedure: You are an employee of a Federal agency who has a disability, and you have encountered inaccessible electronic and information technology (including telecommunications) at work, or you are a member of the public with a disability who cannot access public information from the Federal government because of inaccessible technology. This complaint procedure applies to electronic and information technology that was purchased by the Federal government after June 21, 2001.

Note: There is some overlap in the applicability of Sections 501, 504, and 508 of the Rehab Act. In certain cases, you should follow multiple complaint procedures to take advantage of all legal remedies available to you.

For instance, if you are a Federal employee with a disability who has encountered inaccessible technology on the job, you should consider filing (1) a Section 501 complaint, (2) a Section 504 complaint and (3) a Section 508 complaint (if the inaccessible technology was purchased after June 21, 2001). If you are a member of the public with a disability and Section 508 seems to apply to your situation, you also should consider filing a Section 504 complaint if the technology in question affects your ability to access a program or activity that either receives Federal financial assistance or is conducted by any Federal executive agency or the United States Postal Service.


Products and services that are covered by Section 508:
  • Computer hardware and software


  • Telecommunications products, such as telephones and pagers


  • Information kiosks and transaction machines, such as ticket transaction machines


  • World Wide Web sites, including both intranet and internet information and applications


  • Multimedia, such as instructional videos and Flash animations


  • Office equipment, such as copiers and fax machines

Other "fine print":
  • Section 508 applies to Federal departments and agencies including the U.S. Postal Service. In addition, contractors providing services or products to Federal agencies must make sure that the products and services that they provide to the Federal government are compliant with Section 508.


  • Section 508 requirements cover all electronic and information technology (EIT) that is procured, developed, used and maintained by the Federal government. Only those products that were purchased after June 21, 2001, however, are "enforceable" via the complaint procedure. If the technology involved in your case was purchased on or before June 21, 2001, it is possible that requirements for accommodation under Section 501 and Section 504 may apply to your situation.


  • There are certain situations in which Section 508 does not apply. Agencies are not required to acquire EIT that meets the technical provisions of the accessibility standards if the acquisition: (a) is a micro-purchase made prior to October 1, 2004; (b) is for a national security system; (c) is acquired by a contractor incidental to a contract; (d) is located in spaces frequented only by service personnel for maintenance, repair, or occasional monitoring of equipment; or (e) would impose an undue burden on the agency.


  • If a Federal agency determines that it would pose an undue burden to comply with the Section 508 standards, it must still provide information and data to individuals with disabilities through an alternative means of access that can be used by the individuals. Alternative means may include, but are not limited to: voice, fax, relay service, TTY, qualified sign language interpreters, Internet posting, captioning, text-to-speech synthesis, readers, personal assistants, or audio descriptions.


  • The Federal agency that purchases the EIT is responsible for ensuring that the technology conforms to the 508 standards. The standards and Federal Acquisition Regulations can be found at http://www.section508.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=Content&ID=3.


  • It is unclear whether Section 508 applies to technology that was accessible when purchased after June 21, 2001 but was later modified so that it lost some or all of its accessibility.


  • Depending on the agency's specific procedures, there may be a time limit during which you must file your complaint.


  • Individuals with disabilities may file a complaint with an agency or bring a civil action in Federal Court for an agency's noncompliance with the requirements of Section 508.

How to proceed with the complaint process:

Build and document your case
  • Your name, address, telephone/TTY number and email address
  • Name and address of the Federal agency
  • A detailed description of the product or service that is inaccessible
  • The date you became aware of the inaccessible product or service
  • A detailed description of the inaccessible features or functions, including exactly what happens and does not happen
  • Suggestions for improvement
  • Assistive technology you use with this product or service, such as the name and version of your screen reading software
Contact the 508 Coordinator for the applicable agency and find out how to register a complaint
Follow the agency's specific procedures Under Section 508, each agency develops procedures for handling complaints.



If you are interested in learning more about Section 508 of the Rehab Act, check out these resources:


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Information Technology Technical Assistance and Training Center
Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access
Georgia Institute of Technology
490 10th Street NW · Atlanta, GA 30318
Telephone: 1-800-726-9119 (Voice/TTY) · Fax: 404-894-9320 · Email: ittatc@ittatc.org

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