On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. That landmark civil rights legislation reaffirmed the idea that all our citizens, regardless of disability, are entitled to the same privileges, pursuits, and opportunities as everyone else.
Since its enactment, the ADA has opened many doors and sought to level the playing field for employment of Americans with disabilities. Still, however, the unemployment rate for persons with disabilities remains high.
Today, following on other steps already taken, the Obama Administration announced new efforts that will continue to support increased employment opportunities for persons with disabilities and will also help make the government more open and accessible to all citizens. Specifically, the administration is working to release a draft comprehensive strategic plan to improve compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Section 508 requires that federal agencies’ electronic and information technology be accessible to people with disabilities, both inside and outside the government. Even 12 years after this law was enacted, many technological barriers still exist, limiting the ability of persons with disabilities when they try to interact with the federal government, whether as an employee or as a citizen seeking information or services.
Making electronic and information technology, such as websites, 508 compliant will ensure that applicants have equal access to apply for job opportunities. 508 compliance also will promote increased retention, as federal employees will be able to successfully utilize the technology – whether it be computers, telephones, fax machines, websites and many other technological tools – necessary to perform their duties. Moreover, it will make the government more open and accessible as people with disabilities will be able to better access all the information the federal government has placed online.