Washington - The Department of Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the first federal agency to fully comply with the provisions of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, requiring that all federal agencies' electronic information is accessible to people with disabilities and is comparable to the information and access provided to those without disabilities. The USPTO's procurement policies ensure that purchases of electronic products and services, including purchases under $2,500, conform to accessibility standards and are ahead of the government-wide implementation schedule.
The USPTO's Section 508 program is now a model for other federal agencies. The General Services Administration (GSA), the federal agency responsible for educating federal employees and building the infrastructure necessary to support Section 508 implementation, is using USPTO's program as a guide for federal procurement officials participating in its nationwide Section 508 training programs. Recently, PriceWaterhouseCoopers selected USPTO's Web site as the most accessible out of the 144 federal government sites they evaluated.
"I am extremely pleased that our success in developing a clearly defined and well-enforced program can be an example for others," said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property James E. Rogan. "We have found that Section 508 standards are simply good business practices that complement a 21st century agency that is responsive to the needs of its employees and customers."
The success of the USPTO Section 508 program is based on three principles-creating awareness, placing responsibility and ensuring enforcement. All of USPTO's procurement officials, contractors and vendors are made aware of the fundamentals of the agency's Section 508 program and process. Responsibility for Section 508 compliance is placed with the employee purchasing electronic products or services who must certify that those purchases are compliant. And, USPTO has a zero tolerance policy. The agency's procurement managers will not process a request unless it has all of the required Section 508 documentation.