Section 508: Getting Started

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Step 1  Does your acquisition meet the definition of EIT? You have a good or a service you wish to obtain. But, you heard you have to comply with Section 508. "What is that? What do I have to do?," you ask. To achieve compliance with Section 508 you must first understand its requirements and determine whether or not your acquisition requirement falls under the definition of Electronic Information Technology (EIT). As the various pages of this site will explain, the primary purpose of Section 508 is to provide access to and use of Federal executive agencies' electronic and information technology (EIT) by individuals with disabilities.

Briefly, EIT is information technology (IT), as defined at FAR 2.101, and any equipment or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment or service, that is used in the creation, conversion, or duplication of data or information. In addition to IT, EIT includes:

Consult the other pages of this site for a full understanding of the definition of EIT, the application of Section 508 and your responsibilities. Everyone in the acquisition chain has a role.

It is important to realize that Section 508 affects what agencies acquire (i.e., the requirements development process), generally not how they acquire it (i.e., source selection). As such, you need to understand and follow this step and the steps outlined in the following text and references in order for your CD-435 to be processed. Section 508 requirements are separate from, but complementary to, requirements in sections 501 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act which require, among other things, that agencies provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, provide program access to members of the public with disabilities, and take other actions necessary to prevent discrimination on the basis of disability in their programs.

NOAA's Acquisition and Grants Office has designed a simple checklist available in Word and WordPerfect format for a requisitioner to use in making any of the necessary Determinations and Certifications identified herein for compliance with Section 508. The checklist includes definitions of essential terms used in connection with Section 508. The checklist can be used to identify which Section 508 standards apply to your requirement, and it also includes a list of authorized exemptions from the application of Section 508. Your line office's Section 508 Coordinator can help you fill out this checklist.

DETERMINE IF YOUR REQUIREMENT MEETS THE DEFINITION OF EIT

Step 1(a) YES If your product or service does fall within the definition of EIT, go to Step 2.

Useful Links:

Step 1(b) NO If the product or service you require does not fall within the definition of EIT set forth in the above link or the product or service is for a component or legacy system not required to be compliant, mark the NOT APPLICABLE area of the check list and submit the completed form with your purchase request to your servicing office.

Step 2 Determine the applicable Section 508 Technical Standards that apply to your proposed acquisition. These are listed on the NOAA Section 508 Standards Checklist and Assessment Certification Form. Section 508 reflects several different technical standards which apply to certain types of products and services. The Technical Standards are identified on the checklist. Detailed information regarding the Technical Standards is provided below. The Access Board's Guide to Section 508 Standards also provides a good explanation of these standards. Once you have identified the applicable technical standard(s), proceed to Step 4.

Step 3 . Determine if an exemption applies to your acquisition. (Exemptions on listed on the Checklist.)

Step 3(a) NO  If it appears that no exemption applies, go to Step 4.

Step 3(b) YES  If one of the exemptions listed on the checklist applies, make this determination by checking the corresponding box and get the checklist certified by having it signed by your office's "approving official."

Your Approval Official is the same person who approves your purchase request.

UNDUE BURDEN

If you check the box for the "undue burden" exemption, you must include specific documentation supporting your conclusion. An undue burden connotes significant difficulty or expense. In determining whether an action would result in an undue burden, you must consider all agency resources available to the program or component for which the product is being developed, procured, maintained or used. Documenting undue burden should be based on:

You must document in writing a determination of Undue Burden, and your determination must be approved in accordance with agency procedure (See Step 6), and be maintained in the contract file. Please provide the information needed to document the undue burden associated with the product using the form provided at the link below:

Undue Burden Exemption Form

A SPECIAL NOTE: If your office determines that acquiring a Section 508 compliant product would impose an undue burden, your office must provide individuals with disabilities an alternative means to access and use of the information and data.

Step 4  Conduct Market Research. Check to find out if vendors offer products that meet the standard(s) checked in Step 2.

Identify available vendor information on product compliance and assess. Vendors selling your EIT product or service may have already submitted documentation on how their product complies with the specific Section 508 technical standard you identified in Step 2. Check out the vendor's website first. NOAA's headquarters procurement office is compiling a list of commonly used venders including each vender's previously submitted section 508 compliance information. You can view NOAA's (or AG'S) list of vendors having already submitted Section 508 information by clicking on the link below entitled "NOAA - Products/Vendors Compliance Information." Additional vendor submitted information is available at the Government Services Administration link below, entitled: " GSA - Products/Vendors Compliance Information."

If adequate vendor information on meeting applicable technical standards is not available, request it from vendors and review for compliance. If your vendor does not already have Section 508 information on its website and is not on the acquisition web site list , you will need to find out directly from the vendor if and how its product complies with the requirements of Section 508. Your request to the vendor will be for information on how the specific product meets the applicable section 508 standard. A handy form listing each of the standards, with space for the vendor to fill in how its product complies with them is available at the link entitled, " Blank Product Compliance Checklist." This checklist includes ALL of the technical standards. Just ask the vendor to fill out the section that relates to the specific standard you feel applies.

The three links mentioned in this step are provided here, as follows:

Step 5 Determine if there are products available which comply with the applicable Section 508 Technical Standards.

Once you have identified or received information from the vendor illustrating how its product complies with the Section 508 technical standard(s) (Step 4), review it to make sure it is okay with you.

Step 5(a) YES  Once you are generally satisfied with the vendor's response such that it has adequately addressed all of the technical standards, attach it to the checklist. If the vendor's documentation shows that its product meets some or all of the applicable standards, print off that part of the documentation and attach it to your checklist. Proceed to Step 6.

YES, But Undue Burden. Return to Step 3(b).

Step 5(b) NO What if NO vendors can meet the 508 technical standards applicable to your product? Okay, you've done market research and can't identify a vendor that provides a product or service that complies with the Section 508 technical standards. Using the Simple checklist, check the block associated with "Commercial Non-Availability" exemption. Complete and attach the Commercial Non-Availability Form to the checklist. Proceed to Step 6.

Step 6   Complete the Checklist and Certify. Review the checklist to ensure that it is completed properly and have it certified by obtaining the signature of the approving official (official signing the "Approved By" line of the CD-435) in the space provided. Final policy has not yet been issued by the Department of Commerce. However, in order to provide interim guidance, the following information based on the current draft of the DOC Section 508 Policy is provided. As final policy is published, information will be provided on any changes as soon as they are received.

Approvals of EIT Undue Burden Exception Determination and Certification are as follows:

For IT Products and Services:
Operating Unit Chief Information Officers (CIOs) will have authority to approve these determinations under the following thresholds:

NOAA Operating Unit

Dollar Ceiling

National Weather Service (NWS)

<$10,000,000

National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS)

<$10,000,000

National Ocean Service (NOS)

<$2,500,000

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)

<$2,500,000

Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR)

<$2,500,000

Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO)

<$2,500,000

Office of Finance and Administration (OFA)

<$2,500,000

Above these thresholds, the Determination and Certification will need to be submitted to the Department of Commerce CIO for approval. Such requests must be submitted through the Operating Unit CIO.

For Other EIT Products and Services:

Responsibility for approving these Determinations and Certifications will rest with the CFO. We do not, however, currently have any details on thresholds. As an interim policy, utilize the same thresholds as stated above for IT Products and Services.

Attach the completed and certified checklist to the CD-435. Attach the appropriate vendor documentation as specified in the previous steps. Send the CD-435, checklist and documentation to your servicing acquisition office, with a copy of the complete package to your Section 508 Coordinator. Your servicing acquisition office will likely ask you to provide an electronic copy of the vendor information to post it on their website. You are now done with the 508 process.

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