Section 508 Compliance for Government Contracts

  • 3.05.2023

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    How government contracts work

    Government contracts are any legal agreements that list the business agreements reached between companies and public sector organizations. For businesses, especially small ones, these contracts provide a fantastic financial opportunity.

    Obtaining a contract with the US government is something that every firm aspires to, but it’s not always easy. The contracts contain mandatory clauses that afford the government special contractual rights, the most important of these being the changes clause, the termination for convenience clause, and the default clause. These provisions grant the government the authority to unilaterally alter the conditions of the contract or terminate it.

    Government contracts differ from those in the private sector in light of the myriad statutes, regulations, and policies that promote competition for them to the greatest extent possible. These mechanisms help in ensuring proper spending of taxpayer money as well as the efficient attainment of a nation’s socioeconomic objectives.

    US government contracts

    Having contracts with the United States (US) government is a dream much sought after by many businesses. That is because the US government is the largest procurer and spender in the world.

    Only the contracting officers have the authority to contractually bind the US government. This authority is vested in an executive agency that delegates it by issuing a certificate of appointment or warrant that provided authority to bind the government up to a specified amount of money. As a result, US government contracting officers have the authority to award, administer, and terminate government contracts.

    The Federal Acquisition Streaming Act, which encourages the government to buy pre-existing items rather than commissioning its own government-exclusive commodities whenever possible, applies to all contracts with the US government.

    The VPAT process is complicated. Let us handle it for you.

      US government contracts and Section 508 compliance

      In order to assure information and communication technology (ICT) accessibility for people with disabilities, Section 508 was included in the US Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The legislation seeks to close the accessibility gap between current laws and the existing operational procedures, as well as modernize the statutes and implement various standards to make federal facilities and programs more accessible.

      The provisions of Section 508 do not simply apply to government agencies. Any organization that receives funding from the federal government or conducts business with a federal agency is also affected. This includes independent contractors, participants in the financial sector, healthcare providers, businesses organized by law, and many more. To conduct business with the government, these private contractors and organizations need government contracts.

      Unlike grants and cooperative agreements, which are assistance mechanisms, government contracts are procurement mechanisms. This indicates that their primary objective is to acquire products and services for the use or direct benefit of the government.

      Following the enactment of Section 508, it is impossible to be awarded a US government contract if the ICT product or service you intend to offer to the government does not meet the established Section 508 accessibility standards.

      If Section 508 applies to you, you should ensure all your digital products and services, including digital communications like website content, emails, computer software, mobile applications, and PDF documents, are accessible to stand a better chance of winning a government contract.

      Section 508 compliance checklist for US government contracts

      Obtaining Section 508 compliance is necessary in order to win US government contracts. Achieving Section 508 compliance is important and advantageous for companies wishing to get US government contracts for a number of reasons.

      To begin with, Section 508 compliance helps remove the technological obstacles that could otherwise prevent government employees with disabilities from performing their tasks.

      ICT that complies with Section 508 guarantees that individuals with disabilities have access to the information they require and can carry out tasks and make purchases in the same ways as everyone else. In addition to giving business and organization owners peace of mind, complying with Section 508 shields them from the stress of potential legal consequences.

      Even if obtaining government contracts is not your top priority, adhering to Section 508 accessibility criteria will give you the satisfying peace of mind that comes from knowing that your company or organization is acting legally and ethically.

      However, going it alone can be a challenging process to achieve Section 508 compliance. This in part inspired the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) and General Services Administration (GSA) to work together to create the Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT).

      Section 508 compliance and VPATs

      The VPAT transforms the Section 508 compliance checklist into a standard reporting format, assisting ICT product and service vendors in documenting how their products and services adhere to Section 508 requirements and enabling government contracting and procurement officials to make preliminary evaluations of how well products and services adhere to Section 508 accessibility requirements.

      A Section 508 VPAT is one of the obligatory documents needed for government contracting officials to grant a contract to a business or organization. It describes the accessibility level of Section 508-compliant ICT products and services.

      If you want to be given consideration for federal contracts, you must keep your VPAT updated. Every time you make major modifications to your product or service, you must complete a new VPAT in order to keep your VPAT current.

      Attaining Section 508 compliance

      You can attain Section 508 compliance by filling out a Section 508 VPAT yourself. However, this will require you to deepen your understanding of Section 508, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and the other accessibility requirements.

      Many businesses and organizations turn to expert Section 508 compliance service providers like ADACP to test their ICT products and services for Section 508 accessibility and fill out VPATs for them due to the complexity involved in self-completing the VPAT as well as the determination to eliminate potential barriers to obtaining government contracts.

      Need help finding out if your ICT product or service is Section 508 compliant?

      As has already been alluded to, it will be impossible to win a US government contract if the ICT product or service you’re offering for government procurement is not Section 508 compliant.

      Failing to attain Section 508 compliance should not be the reason you miss out on winning government contracts. That is because, with the right determination, you can ensure your products and services always have updated Section 508 VPAT certifications.

      You can contact ADACP for help with your Section 508 compliance if you need assistance with the necessary knowledge of Section 508 and WCAG. You can also find out how our Section 508 consultants can help you achieve Section 508 accessibility by calling (626) 486-2201 today.