Federal agencies face a daily challenge in complying with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Section 508 is meant to ensure that covered information and communication technology (ICT) is accessible and usable by people with disabilities. Compliance is not only a legal requirement, but also, as the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) points out, “It’s the right thing to do.” HHS notes that 6.4 million people in the U.S. have a visual disability, 10.5 million have a hearing disability, 20.9 million have an ambulatory disability, and 14.8 million have a cognitive disability.
The work of making a federal agency’s wide range of documents compliant is really critical, but agencies often find their own bandwidth stretched. That’s why agencies like HHS turn to HMS for the 508-compliance work of properly formatting their documents, spreadsheets, PDFs, and other materials. Section 508 applies to any information an agency intends to make public, whether that material will be posted online or distributed in other ways.
HMS devotes an entire team to Section 508 compliance. These subject matter leaders stay abreast of regulations, checklists, and HHS guidelines to make sure agency deliverables like reports, templates, forms, surveys, slide presentations, and newsletters are compliant.
We create transcripts for audio recordings and videos so those who are hearing impaired can consume that content. Our team uses special software to aid in transcription, but we also have specialists who directly transcribe exactly what is said for total quality assurance.
“We recognize how vital Section 508 compliance is for people who may be hearing and/or sight-impaired,” said HMS President Leah Heimbach. “Imagine how hard it would be for a person with a visual or hearing impairment to get information out of these documents without the work we do. We help government agencies make sure that anyone who has those impairments can get what they need.”
What sets HMS apart in our 508-compliance work is attention to detail, quality, and turnaround time. Sometimes, the client agency needs a transcript within a few hours. We have a contractual commitment to delivering our work within 24 hours, but we often accelerate our pace and exceed that standard when the agency wants it sooner.
To ensure that HMS continues to be a leader in this space, we adhere to strict internal quality controls, and conduct regular staff training that keeps our whole 508-compliance team up to date on the latest regulation changes and requirements.
“For our specialists on this team, ‘508’ is a verb. Ensuring 508 compliance is what they do every day,” said Heimbach. “The result: hundreds of documents and other deliverables are turned around each month for our client agencies — with speed and accuracy.”