There is no question that COVID-19 has changed the way that we work and interact. Many employees are spending more time working at home or in offices with fewer colleagues than before, including federal agency workers. For those with diversabilities (diverse abilities), this can present challenges that these agencies have not had to prepare for in the past.
Implementing 504/508 compliance in the office is one thing; implementing it for employees who work from home takes different considerations.
What is 504/508 Compliance?
Per the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Sections 504/508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require government agencies to provide people with diversabilities equal or comparable access to the following:
- Electronic materials
- Participation in programs
- Information technology
These sections of the ADA make it possible for people who are blind, Deaf, or have other diversabilities to more easily hold jobs within the government and get access to necessary government programs. Though the sections differ in some ways, at the heart of both of them is the ability to access information.
The Problem with COVID-19 and 504/508 Compliance
In a government office, employees and patrons with visual impairments may be able to access documents in braille or have them read out loud using a screen reader. Additionally, Deaf individuals may have access to qualified American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters or programs that provide Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) services.
Employees working from home often have to rely on their own technology. They also have to work within platforms that may not be optimized for use outside of the agency’s facility. For people who rely on assistive or accessible technology, this can make it nearly impossible to participate in government programs or get their jobs done.
Solving 504/508 Compliance Issues for Remote Employees and Citizens
First and foremost, your website and any programs that employees are required to use should be ADA compliant. They need to be high contrast, easy to navigate, and provide large text options as well as translation tools.
The language you use for any materials and on your website should be written between a sixth-grade and eighth-grade reading level to make it as accessible as possible, as well.
Any materials that you distribute via email should have a large text option and be compatible with screen readers. Additionally, you should provide these materials in an audio format. Employees also need the same access to technology that they would normally use in the workplace for their home offices.
This might include screen readers, virtual reader services, or even virtual sign language interpretation – these services are especially important if your agency is using video conferencing for any critical communications.
Help for ADA Compliance Issues
If you have received a compliance complaint or if your agency needs help implementing 504/508 compliance for remote employees, Applied Development can help. We work closely with government agencies and government contractors to match them with appropriate accessibility providers and identify any necessary technology for improving employee and citizen accessibility.