US government agency sued for inaccessibility

Wednesday, 30 April 2014 12:25pm

An accessibility law suit has been brought against the United States General Services Administration (GSA) alleging that its website, SAM.gov, is inaccessible and does not comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Section 504 requires that individuals with disabilities have equal access to the programs and services provided by recipients of federal funding.

The GSA is responsible for administering the federal government’s non-defence contracts and for ensuring that federal contractors comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

According to the Class Action Complaint, brought by the American Council of the Blind and other parties, despite GSA’s obligation to ensure that federal contractors' programs and activities are Section 504 compliant and accessible to disabled individuals, GSA’s own website, SAM.gov, is inaccessible and does not comply with Section 504.

“SAM.gov is rife with features that act as a barrier to access for blind and visually impaired federal government contractors, preventing them from using SAM.gov on an equal basis with government contractors who are not blind or visually impaired,” the complaint reads.

“SAM.gov.as non-compliance with Section 504 has left certain blind and visually impaired government contractors unable to register or timely renew their government contracts.”

The suit also alleges that ‘reasonable accommodations’, such as making the site readable by screen readers, containing keyboard only navigation, or supplying suitable helpdesk assistance have not to date been provided by the GSA.

In Australia, it is also a requirement that all government websites be accessible for people with disabilities. The National Transition Strategy, launched in 2010, is the major federal government policy requiring that government websites be accessible. The strategy is backed up by the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 which, similar to Section 504, requires that “reasonable adjustments” be made for people with disabilities. 


A version of this article first appeared on Access iQ.


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