Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Gov Lingle continues to violate Section 508
by Larry Geller
There is a federal requirement on states (because they receive federal money) that they obey Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. While some states dispute it, most follow its requirements and even codify it into state law.
That’s why state websites are accessible to those who use screen readers, usually the blind and those with poor vision. Hawaii’s legislature has put up a Section 508 compliant website.
But our governor, since her first term, has posted or sent to the legislature files that are not Section 508 compliant.
I don’t use a screen reader, but think that everyone in Hawaii should be able to read the governor’s messages.
One of the first bills she ever vetoed was for services for the blind. Soon after, I went to a meeting at which several blind people, who had testified during the session many times in favor of the bill and worked hard to get it passed, were still celebrating the bill’s passage, and had to tell them that it had been vetoed. Of course, they could not know that, because the governor’s messages were not accessible to them.
Today I was looking at veto messages here. The files seem to be simple images, which would not be accessible. In other words, the governor continues to ignore Section 508.
Will the feds come take any money away from the state? No chance. So she can obey or ignore the requirement as she pleases.
I just thought I’d mention what her choice has been. No one else is likely to tell you.
You state that "There is a federal requirement on states (because they receive federal money) " but Section 508 doesn't automatically apply to an entire state government merely because it receives Federal money. In fact, it is more on an agency-by-agency basis. So, in the instance you cite, if the Office of the Governor has received Federal money, then they would be required to comply with the Rehabilitation Act.
From my understanding, there is no Hawaii-specific legislation in place mandating that EIT procurements be accessible. At the same time, any citizen (or user of the site, for that matter) can and should submit a complaint to the State regarding the inaccessible content.
If the State chooses to ignore the complaint, further action should be taken to compel compliance through legal means, because you're right in feeling that all citizens have the right to access the information being disseminated by their government.
Remember: The squeaky wheel gets the grease.