Making Federal Information Technology Accessible: A Case Study in Social Policy and Procurement
85 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2004
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that all information technology bought by the federal government be accessible to persons with disabilities. That goal, simple to state, has been enormously complex to implement. In imposing a social initiative on the procurement system, Congress has left a huge number of issues unresolved - including, most critically, who is to pay for the initiative. This article reviews the issues raised by Section 508, and traces common patterns that emerge when, as with Section 508, social goals are implemented through a large, complex, and deeply entrenched procurement system. The article traces the impact of established constituencies, inside and outside the government, both in slowing Section 508's progress and in filling gaps left by Congress and the regulators. The article suggests that, as the U.S. procurement system grows ever more streamlined in the coming years, the patterns and pitfalls of Section 508 - and of other social initiatives - will become an increasingly prominent part of the procurement system.
Keywords: Federal procurement, information technology, accessibility, disability, handicap, socioeconomic
JEL Classification: H57, K12, K23, L86
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation