Section 508 Reference Guide Appendix E: USPTO Section 508 Instructions, Forms and Processes
Here are the USPTO processes for procuring EIT products under the requirements of Section 508. To date, these processes have been effective. For example, in September 2003, we randomly selected twenty EIT procurements, and all were processed in the way outlined below.
EIT Procurement Checklist and Instructions
- EIT Procurement Checklist
- Subparts and Categories for Section 508 Compliance
- Evaluation Checklists
EIT Procurement Checklist
Here are three versions of the EIT Procurement Checklist. The original XLS version is meant to be printed, and then completed by hand. The HTML or PDF versions are meant to be completed online (without signatures), and then printed and signed. Electronic form submission is not supported at this time.
Requisitioner: The individual who is funding and acquiring the EIT product (to include hardware, software, maintenance, and/or contract task orders).
Note: The Requisitioner can have a technical person assist in the process and evaluation of a product, but it is not mandatory and the same individual can perform the two functions
- Requisition Number: Assigned requisition number from POD working document.
- Program Office: Business area (e.g., Patents, CFO) that initiates the requirement.
- EIT Coordinator Review: There is an individual in each business area who is the EIT Coordinator. Before submission to the Office of Procurement, the checklist and documentation must be reviewed and initialed by the appropriate EIT Coordinator.
- Product Description: Description of the requested EIT item or service.
Exemptions to Section 508: These are situations that exempt the product or service from compliance with the law.
Note: EIT Coordinator is the only person authorized to approve an exemption.
Market Analysis: There are four options in this area.
- All products that meet the functional requirements are 508 compliant. This is a signal to Office of Procurement to procure this EIT request based on normal conditions (e.g., best value, 8A, etc.).
- One product meets more 508 standards than the others. Based on the law, Office of Procurement must purchase the product that is most compliant.
- Product previously purchased and is still compliant. Normally, this precludes extensive market research on a product that has not changed since the last procurement.
- Only one product meets functional specification. Legal term for sole source. The Office of Procurement makes the final determination on a valid sole source.
Note: All options require that documentation and justification are included with the procurement request.
Requisitioner signature and date: Required for certifying the completeness of the checklist and that the product, if not exempt, is Section 508 compliant.
Note: When the requisitioner signs the checklist, he or she is certifying Section 508 compliance and is legally committing the USPTO to the compliance of the product.
Subparts and Categories for Section 508 Compliance
Subpart A - General
The standards define the types of technology covered and set forth provisions that establish a minimum level of accessibility. The application section (1194.2) outlines the scope and coverage of the standards. The standards cover the full range of EIT in the Federal sector, including those used for communication, duplication, computing, storage, presentation, control, transport and production. This includes computers, software, networks, peripherals and other types of electronic office equipment. The standards define EIT, in part, as "any equipment or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment, that is used in the creation, conversion, or duplication of data or information."
Subpart A also explains what is exempt (1194.3), defines terms (1194.4), and generally recognizes alternatives to what is required that provide equal or greater access (1194.5). Consistent with the law, the standards exempt systems used for military command, weaponry, intelligence, and cryptologic activities (but not routine business and administrative systems used for other defense-related purposes or by defense agencies or personnel). The standards also exempt "back office" equipment used only by service personnel for maintenance, repair, or similar purposes.
The standards cover technology procured by Federal agencies under contract with a private entity, but apply only to those products directly relevant to the contract and its deliverables. An exception clarifies that the standards do not apply to technology that is incidental to a Federal contract. Thus, those products that are not specified as part of a contract with a Federal agency would not have to comply with the standards. For example, a firm that produces a report for a Federal agency under a contract would not have to procure accessible computers and word processing software even if they were used exclusively for the contract; however, compliance would be required if such products were to become the property of the Federal agency as contract deliverables or if the Federal agency purchased the products to be used by the contractor as part of the project. If a Federal agency contracts with a firm to develop its web site, the standards would apply to the new web site for the agency but not to the firm's own web site.
- Requisitioner must identify which categories (not standards) are applicable for the product.
- A product can be included in more than one category (e.g., a laptop would have to be compliant in both software and portable computers). The categories are divided into Subparts B, C and D.
Subpart B - Technical categories
For detailed information regarding the Section 508 standards, see the relevant chapters of this Guide. For summaries and checklists, see the Evaluation Checklists below.
The six categories of standards are:
- Software Applications and Operating Systems (1194.21). Most of the specifications for software pertain to usability for people with vision impairments. For example, one provision requires alternative keyboard navigation, which is essential for people with vision impairments who cannot rely on pointing devices, such as mice. Other provisions address animated displays, color and contrast settings, blink rate, and electronic forms, among others.
- Web-based Intranet and Internet Information and Applications (1194.22). The criteria for web-based technology and information are based on access guidelines developed by the WAI of the W3C. Many of these provisions ensure access for people with vision impairments who rely on AT to access computer-based information, such as screen readers, which translate what's on a computer screen into automated audible output, and refreshable Braille displays. Certain conventions, such as verbal tags or identification of graphics and format devices, like frames, are necessary so that these devices can "read" them for the user in a sensible way. The standards do not prohibit the use of web site graphics or animation. Instead, the standards aim to ensure that such information is also available in an accessible format. Generally, this means use of text labels or descriptors for graphics and certain format elements. HTML code already provides an ALT tag for graphics which can serve as a verbal descriptor for graphics). This section also addresses the usability of multimedia presentations, image maps, style sheets, scripting languages, applets and plug-ins, and electronic forms. The standards apply to Federal web sites but not to private sector web sites (unless a site is provided under contract to a Federal agency, in which case only that web site or portion covered by the contract would have to comply). Accessible sites offer significant advantages that go beyond access. For example, those with "text-only" options provide a faster downloading alternative and can facilitate transmission of web-based data to cell phones and PDAs.
- Telecommunications Products (1194.23). The criteria of this section are designed primarily to ensure access to people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. This includes compatibility with hearing aids, cochlear implants, assistive listening devices, and TTYs. TTYs are devices that enable people with hearing or speech impairments to communicate over the telephone; they typically include an acoustic coupler for the telephone handset, a simplified keyboard, and a visible message display. One requirement calls for a standard non-acoustic TTY connection point for telecommunication products that allow voice communication but that do not provide TTY functionality. Other specifications address adjustable volume controls for output, product interface with hearing technologies, and the usability of keys and controls by people who may have impaired vision or limited dexterity.
- Video or Multimedia Products (1194.24). Multimedia products involve more than one information medium and include, but are not limited to, video programs, narrated slide productions, and computer-generated presentations. Provisions address caption decoder circuitry (for any system with a screen larger than 13 inches) and secondary audio channels for television tuners, including tuner cards for use in computers. The standards also require captions and audio descriptions for certain training and informational multimedia productions developed or procured by Federal agencies. The standards also provide that users should be able to turn captions or audio descriptions on or off.
- Self-Contained, Closed Products (1194.25). This section covers products that generally have embedded software but are designed in such a way that a user cannot easily attach or install AT. Examples include information kiosks, automated transaction machines, copiers, printers, calculators, fax machines, and similar types of products. The standards require that access features be built into the system so users do not have to attach assistive devices to it. Other specifications address mechanisms for private listening (handset or a standard headphone jack), touch screens, auditory output and adjustable volume controls, and location of controls within accessible reach ranges.
- Desktop and Portable Computers (1194.26). This section focuses on keyboards and other mechanically operated controls, touch screens, use of biometric forms of identification, and ports and connectors.
Subpart C - Functional Performance Criteria
The performance requirements of this section are intended for overall product evaluation and for technologies or components for which there is no specific requirement under the technical standards in Subpart B. These criteria are designed to ensure that the individual accessible components work together to create an accessible product. They cover operation, including input and control functions, operation of mechanisms, and access to visual and audible information. These provisions are structured to allow people with sensory or physical disabilities to locate, identify, and operate input, control and mechanical functions and to access the information provided, including text, static or dynamic images, icons, labels, sounds or incidental operating cues.
For a list of the requirements, see Subpart C in Appendix A.
Subpart D - Information, Documentation, and Support
The standards also address access to all information, documentation, and support provided to end users (e.g., Federal employees) of covered technologies. This includes user guides, installation guides for end-user installable devices, and customer support and technical support communications. Such information must be available in alternate formats upon request at no additional charge. Alternate formats or methods of communication can include Braille, cassette recordings, large print, electronic text, Internet postings, TTY access, and captions and audio descriptions for video materials.
For a list of the requirements, see Subpart D in Appendix A.
- Determine technical specifications for the product. It is extremely important to identify exactly what are the technical or functional requirements to provide the service or product to meet the need.
Note: The technical specifications drive the procurement, not Section 508.
- Market research to identify products. After the technical specifications have been identified, conduct market research in accordance with FAR T10.001 to determine what product(s) meet all the functional specifications. Market research may include, but is not limited to, information from web sites, industrial publications, trade shows, CBD notices, and resources available from other Federal agencies. As with any evaluation, document the findings and make them part of the procurement request.
- Determining vendor(s). Once the products have been identified, additional market research must be conducted to determine which vendors provide the product.
- Determining the most Section 508 compliant vendor. All the vendors who provide the product must complete the appropriate USPTO Procurement checklist(s). Note that some products require more than one checklist (e.g., a PC and its software are two separate items and each requires a checklist). The vendor who is the most compliant is the one that must be selected for the procurement.
Note: Procurement will only purchase a product from vendors that complete the checklist. No checklist, no purchase.
Note: The USPTO is legally responsible for Section 508 compliance, not the vendor. No matter what the vendor says or certifies about 508 compliance, only the USPTO is liable.
Note: Strongly recommend that compliance not be based on a vendor simply stating on the vendor checklist that they meet the standards or responding with a "yes." Instead, the vendor should provide detailed information on how they meet the standard, which ones they do not meet, and why certain standards are not applicable. Do not restrict responses just to the space provided on the checklist. A detailed response not only helps ensure that the vendor can/cannot meet the standards, but also if they truly understand the standards. Include the findings of the market research with the procurement checklist.
All questions on exemptions should be directed to the EIT Coordinator, who is the only person authorized to grant an exemption.
Here is a high level interpretation of the exemptions allowed under Section 508 that apply to the USPTO.
Back Office Products
Applies to hardware and software located in areas frequented only by service personnel for maintenance, repair and occasional monitoring of equipment. Currently, the following items are considered to be "back office" exempt:
- Servers, mainframe, and storage devices located in the lab or data center
- Terminals and consoles attached to the servers/mainframe
- Routers and switches
- Network-related equipment (behind the wall)
- PBX (telephone) server equipment
- Equipment located in the ETC lab programmed for the data center
- Software associated with the mainframe and servers that are located in areas not normally physically accessible by employees
- Software that resides in a data center, but is accessible via the network to employees, is not exempt. (e.g., Oracle)
- Any product that people can interact with has to be compliant. For example, a server located in the data center is exempt, but the same server located in someone's office must be compliant. Another example is modems. One that is inside a PC is exempt while one that is external and has an LCD display or buttons, etc., must be compliant.
- The definition of "back office" is becoming more limited in scope.
The law does not require a "fundamental alteration in the nature of a product, its service or its components." In other words, some products are designed for a specific use and the only way to make them compliant would be to alter the product to a degree that it would no longer be able to provide that use. Examples are cell phones, pagers, PDAs and hand held scanners.
At the time of procurement, there are instances when a product that meets all the function specifications does not have features to meet all the appropriate 508 standards. In certain situations, at the time of procurement, the features to meet those standards are considered commercially non-available and are exempt. The rationale is that while the features are not commercially available at the time of procurement, there is the strongly likelihood that at some future date, the items might be commercially available.
Since the Federal Government is considered a model employer, this exemption is not considered viable. The term applies to a situation where there is a product to meet Section 508 compliance, but its cost is prohibitive. Please be aware that the process and requirements for an undue burden are extensive.
Support Services and Maintenance Agreements
When a service or maintenance agreement is only for "help desk-type" technical support, it is considered exempt. The concept is that if there is a problem, the user calls a number and a service person resolves the problem. However, if the service or agreement includes the ability to purchase parts or upgrades or additional services, then it must provide Section 508 compliant products.
For each category under Section 508 Subpart B, the following table contains links to printable lists that aid in the evaluation of EIT for procurement.
- Standards: The original Section 508 standards, with links to the relevant sections of this Guide.
- In Other Words: Descriptions of standards from the "In Other Words…" subsections of this Guide.
- Checklists to Print: Evaluation checklists in web format, convenient for printing, but without much space for written comments. Set right/left print margins to no more than 0.5 inch.
- Checklists to Fill In: Evaluation checklists in Excel format, convenient for online completion, formatting and printing. This allows for fully detailed comments for each evaluation point.
The evaluation checklists are samples of a format used by the USPTO to internally evaluate Section 508 standards. Responses to "Meet Standard and How" and "Not Applicable and Why" must be completed in detail. Simple comments like "yes" or "comply" are not acceptable.
Note: An EIT procurement cannot be processed or awarded without completion and submission of the relevant checklists for each product.
|Category||Standards||In Other Words||Checklists to Print||Checklists to Fill In|
|1194.21 Software Applications (including web applets and plug-ins)||s21orig||s21para||s21chkh||s21chkx|
|1194.22 Web Info & Applications||s22orig||s22para||s22chkh||s22chkx|
|1194.24 Video & Multimedia||s24orig||s24para||s24chkh||s24chkx|
|1194.25 Self-Contained, Closed||s25orig||s25para||s25chkh||s25chkx|
|1194.26 Desktops & Portables||s26orig||s26para||s26chkh||s26chkx|
For the list of standards under Subparts C and D, see Appendix A.
Software Development (Proprietary Systems)
The Excel version of the AIS Checklist is meant to be printed, and then completed by hand. The PDF version is meant to be completed online (without signatures), and then printed and signed. Electronic form submission is not supported at this time.
Section 508 is an essential part of software development and it is included in the process at the very beginning of a project. The USPTO uses the AIS Checklist to ensure that Section 508 is part of the system development requirements. The checklist must be initialed by the Section 508 coordinator and signed by the software manager before development can begin. The checklist becomes part of the Requirements Documentation.
- The software development manager is the individual who has overall responsibility for ensuring that the system is Section 508 compliant.
- The contractor is responsible for Section 508 compliance until the Government accepts the product from the contractor.
- Only the contracting officer has the authority to change the terms of the contract.
- Even if a contractor certifies that their work is compliant, the USPTO is still responsible and liable for the systems.
- The AIS Checklist is an official part of the Requirements Specification.
- The Technical Review Board will not allow system development to continue unless the AIS Checklist is completed and will not allow the system to go into production until all Section 508 deficiencies are corrected.
- Develop the system to meet the standards, not the accessibility tools.
- Testing with accessibility tools is no guarantee that the product is or is not compliant. Always use at least two tools to test compliance.
- If someone uses JAWS to test compliance, make sure that they have a high level of expertise to ensure the best results. The best method for testing compliance is reading the code.
- Only the portion of the system that is new or revised has to be compliant.
- Section 508 compliance requires good coding practices.
- Experience has shown that good planning resulted in no additional time or resource to produce a Section 508 compliant product.
- AIS Name/Acronym: The name of the AIS system and its acronym.
- SDM: Name of the individual that is designated the System Development Manager for the system.
- Business Group: Business area (e.g., Patents, CFO) that initiates the requirement.
- Brief Description of AIS: Briefly describe the purpose of the AIS and whether the current effort is to revise an existing system.
The Section 508 Coordinator reviews with the Software Manager the system requirements and initials the pertinent boxes in this section. The initial checklist becomes part of the official documentation for the system and must be included in the Requirements Specification. The Technical Review Board will not allow the SDM to continue processing the AIS without a signed checklist.
- Exemptions: The 508 Coordinator is the only person authorized to approve an exemption. If the coordinator determines that a part or all of the system is exempt, he/she will initial the checkbox and provide comments.
- Identify Technical Categories: The 508 Coordinator will work with the SDM to determine which categories of standards are applicable to the AIS. Once determined, the Coordinator will initial the appropriate checkboxes. The SDM must complete the checklist for the standards in each applicable category and include it as part of the system documentation. The SDM will determine which standards within the category are applicable and provide that information to the testing organization.
- SDM signature and date: The SDM must sign and date the checklist. His/her signature certifies the accuracy and completeness of the checklist and that the AIS will be Section 508 compliant. The checklist can't be processed without the SDM's signature.
- Project Manager signature and date: The Project Manager's signature is optional.
Web Content Checklist
These HTML and PDF versions of the Web Content Checklist for Section 508 Compliance are meant to be completed online (without signatures), and then printed and signed. Electronic form submission is not supported at this time.
This document facilitates certification that all web-accessed content complies with Section 508 requirements.
- Web pages are the most visible Section 508 products that an agency produces.
- The individual who creates a web product, or the software develop manager of a web application, is responsible for ensuring Section 508 compliance.
- USPTO Web Services Division maintains an intranet site pertaining to Section 508 compliance, problem areas, equivalent access, and further resources.
- The best approach for web compliance is to develop in HTML and use text and links. Common problem areas include documents with graphics, data tables, frames, scripts, drop down boxes, forms, cascading style sheets or applets.
- It is important to consider whether to provide web documents in alternate formats, including plain text.
- Preparer: Individual who actually prepares the file(s) for publication to a web environment.
- E-Mail: E-mail address of the preparer of the web content files (technical contact).
- Web Liaison: Individual charged with reviewing all web content for a program office to ensure it conforms with all USPTO web development guidance, determining if the content has been reviewed for policy conformance and coordinating its web publication. This individual must be a USPTO employee.
- Program Office: Program office that sponsors the web content.
- Filenames/URL: The file name(s) for the web content (including the MIME type extension and file paths). This information may have to be adjusted following posting to reflect administrative or technical changes in file names and paths.
- Text-Only: If there is no other way to make a page accessible, then Rules (k.i) and (k.ii) apply. However, if a page is fully accessible without a text only version, then one is not required and the appropriate response to this part of the checklist is "n/a" because it does not apply.
- Program Area Section 508 Coordinator: Individual in each business area (e.g., Patents, Trademarks, CIO, and CFO) who is the Accessibility Coordinator. Before inaccessible web content can be posted to a webserver for use, the checklist and documentation must be reviewed and signed by the appropriate Section 508 Coordinator and forwarded to the USPTO Coordinator for approval.
Procedure for processing a Web Content Certification:
- Web Author and Web Liaison complete section for their names, program office and identifying information for the web content.
- If the Web Author and Web Liaison determine that the web content complies with all Section 508 requirements, they must:
- Check the appropriate box (choose the appropriate answer) for each standard they either meet or that does not apply because the feature is not present in the web content.
- Sign and date the form.
- Web Liaison reviews, signs and dates the checklist certifying compliance.
- Complete processing the web content in accordance with current USPTO guidance and practice.
- The Web Liaison will be required to retain the certification document as evidence of Section 508 compliance throughout the life of the web content file.
- If the Web Author and Web Liaison determine that the web content cannot meet the standard and warrants an "Exemption", they must:
- Check the appropriate box (choose the appropriate answer) for each standard that cannot be met.
- Attach the documentation and/or explanation justifying the request.
- Sign and date the form.
- Have the Program Area Section 508 Coordinator review and, if in agreement, sign the request for Exemption.
- Forward the request to the USPTO Section 508 Coordinator for approval and coordination with the Department of Commerce as necessary.
- Await further instructions regarding processing the request for Exemption.
Accessibility refers to how people who have limitations in mobility, cognitive or sensory abilities can get access to the same information that people without such limitations can. To ensure equivalent access, web content design must address visual, auditory, cognitive and mobility considerations.
Design considerations include designing so that color is not the only cue, script actions are fully described, and alternatives are available when the page functions cannot be made accessible any other way.
Colorblindness (there are many kinds), far-sightedness, blindness, hearing loss, carpal tunnel syndrome, paralysis, susceptibility to seizures, etc., are but a few of the conditions which may require adjustments in the way web content is navigated or presented.
User-controlled accommodation tools include text readers, controls to switch off animations, scripts and applets, and screen or text enlargement settings. Content must be designed so that these controls can be used.
The apparent ease with which tools conveniently and automatically generate HTML and PDF files from source documents unfortunately also compounds the problems that are created when trying to produce accessible web documentation. All too often, individual authors of documents do not possess the knowledge or skills required to properly structure their documents or tag required elements for accessibility. Before creating large numbers of and/or complex documents for web publication, an author should consult with an experienced developer of Section 508 compliant materials.
EIT Procurement by Credit Card
- Purchase Card Pre-Purchase Worksheet
- Worksheet and Process Revisions
- Section 508 Requirements
- Exempt Items
- Purchases over $2500
Purchase Card Pre-Purchase Worksheet
The Excel version of the Purchase Card Pre-Purchase Worksheet is meant to be printed, and then completed by hand. The PDF version is meant to be completed online (without signatures), and then printed and signed. Electronic form submission is not supported at this time.
Worksheet and Process Revisions
- What did not change: The worksheet must be completed, have all the necessary approvals, and be signed before the use of the credit card.
- Reasons for change:
- Creation of a standardized form throughout the USPTO that also allows each business unit to modify certain parts to meet unique requirements. Any area outside of the dark lines can be modified. For example, a business area can add a line for budget approval line or accounting codes or the EIT Coordinator review.
- Less time to complete. No longer have to answer multiple questions, which have obvious "yes." For example, would anyone really say "no" to Is this a Government purchase for a Government purpose? Comments are now in the form of "yes" statements. For example: This is a Government purchase for a Government purpose.
- More logical sequence of information in the top portion of the form. For example, the left side includes card holder and requestor information while the right side requires vendor and product information.
- Updating the form and process to include new requirements (e.g., Section 508 compliance, assets and software license agreement).
- New process: Card holder must sign the Pre-Purchase Worksheet. By signing the form, the card holder certifies the accuracy and completeness of the information on the worksheet, to include Section 508 compliance for appropriate IT purchases.
Section 508 Requirements
For purchases of IT-related products and services under $2500, the credit card holder is responsible for certifying compliance. This is not as difficult or time-consuming as it might seem. Probably 99% of IT-related procurements under $2500 fall into one of four categories. With a few seconds of diligence, the credit card holder can determine compliance and sign the worksheet. The EIT Procurement Checklist is not required for credit card purchases under $2500.
- Supply items (e.g., paper, toner, office supplies)
- Internal components (e.g., memory upgrade, modem, sound card)
- Accessories (e.g., power cord, cable, glare guard, mouse, keyboard)
- Hand-held type devices (e.g., cell phone, pager, Blackberry, PDA)
- Already Section 508 compliant:
- TIG contract. Includes PCs, printers, and laptops.
- Technical Review Manual (TRM) list of approved products.
- Approved mandatory sources for procurements.
- Not IT
- Training courses
- Should not be buying (e.g., personal IT products such as software)
Purchases over $2500
- The person buying the product is responsible for ensuring compliance and providing the credit card holder a completed and signed EIT Procurement Checklist.
- When the credit card holder signs the Pre-Purchase Worksheet, he/she is only certifying that the EIT Procurement Checklist is completed and attached.
- If the credit card holder fails to ensure that a completed EIT Procurement Checklist is attached, then the credit card holder assumes responsibility for Section 508 compliance.