Government Cloud Compliance: MSPs Must Master Section 508

Government Cloud Compliance: MSPs Must Master Section 508

Service providers need to address a number of considerations when offering cloud computing to government customers: specific mission requirements, adherence to particular security standards, and the use of particular contracting vehicles, for instance. Another issue: compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. That law requires federal government agencies to make IT accessible to people with disabilities. Here are the details, and the implications for MSPs serving federal agencies.

The government’s Web site on Section 508 states that the law apples to agencies “when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology.”

Section 508 covers Web applications and, in that arena, contains a number of provisions intended to improve information access to people with impaired vision. For example, the law calls for agencies to assign text tags to non-text elements such as graphics. Tagging lets assistive technologies such as screen readers translate the graphic into audio format.

Caspio Inc., a cloud database platform provider, launched a government division last year. The company discovered interest in Section 508 among its customers, which include United States Postal Service and the California Department of Health.

“Section 508 was coming up pretty regularly,” said David A. Milliron, vice president, government services at Caspio. He said the law surfaced in nearly every discussion with federal and state customers or prospective clients and was often a concern in the education market.

In response, Caspio brought its Caspio Bridge offering into compliance with Section 508. The changes included providing alternative text for images, including buttons, and the use of label tags that identify fields within forms. In addition, tables now can use table header tags. Those tags lets screen readers “read information back to the user in the user in the proper groupings, announcing what the information is before it is read,” according to Caspio.

Caspio said it has made the use of table header tags optional to maintain backward compatibility with some applications using custom JavaScript.

Milliron said Section 508 compliance is a key element government customers look for when evaluating the cloud -- along with security and disaster recovery. For more detail on boosting Web accessibility, The World Wide Web Consortium offers a discussion of HTML techniques here.

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