A bipartisan group of senators is calling out the federal government for failing to do enough to make information and services accessible to people with disabilities.

Under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, the government is supposed to ensure that its electronic and information technology — including websites — are accessible. But compliance efforts are severely lagging, according to U.S. Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., Tim Scott, R-S.C., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Patty Murray, D-Wash., Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.

Over the summer, the senators wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding information about federal government web accessibility.

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In particular, the senators pointed out that Section 508 requires the Department of Justice to issue a report every two years evaluating the accessibility of federal technology, but they said no such report has been released since 2012.

“Without regular reports, Congress, taxpayers, and agencies themselves lack a crucial source of feedback for identifying and resolving longstanding accessibility issues,” the senators wrote.

Meanwhile, the senators pointed to a 2021 report from the nonprofit Information Technology & Innovation Foundation which found that the homepages of 30% of the most popular federal websites failed an automated accessibility test. And, testimony at a July hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Aging showed that many government agencies — including the White House — have reached settlements after being sued for failing to meet their accessibility obligations under Section 508.

Now, several senators are asking the Government Accountability Office to investigate.

“Accessibility challenges appear to exist across the government, raising important questions about the effectiveness of accountability mechanisms intended to monitor the accessibility of federal technology and whether they are being properly carried out,” wrote Casey, Murray and Burr as well as Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Mike Braun, R-Ind., in their request to GAO. “Given these concerns, we ask the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine how the federal government is complying with laws requiring the availability of accessible technology and how it evaluates whether legal requirements are being met.”

A spokeswoman for Casey said that both the Justice Department and GAO have acknowledged receiving the letters and are working on responses.

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