by Margie Donovan

There is nothing to fear about filing a Section 508 complaint. It is your right as a federal employee, and unless we do file complaints, nothing will happen to make this non-access situation change. So here goes.

1. Find out the name of the national officer for Section 508 compliance in your branch of government. Usually, compliance officers are in Washington, D.C.

2. Write a letter explaining exactly how a certain software application (or other technology or equipment in your office) is non- accessible to you, but is accessible to non-disabled co-workers. Be sure to state in your letter that this a "formal" 508 complaint. A sample letter is provided below.

3. Send your letter or any communication by certified mail, return receipt requested, and send a copy to your Regional Office of Resolutions Management (ORM) Director.

This sample letter refers to specific software used in the Department of Veterans Affairs, but software developed for other government departments must meet the same standards which are stated.

Dear Section 508 Coordinator:

For employees who are blind and who use speech access technology, the Computerized Patient Record System (CPRS) is not at all accessible for required forms, such as encounter forms. Other aspects of CPRS are purported to be accessible, but I hereby state that a blind employee is NOT provided with comparable access to certain software functions in CPRS that are available to non-disabled co-workers. For this reason, I am filing a formal Section 508 complaint under the Rehabilitation Act.

My complaint concerns electronic and information technology procured and developed by the VA in 2001. In this formal complaint, I assert that CPRS is NOT accessible to me as a blind person who uses CPRS on a daily basis to provide service to veterans. Information and data that are accessed by non-disabled co-workers are not available to me, even though I am required to use it on a daily basis. The CPRS was designed to be mouse- driven, not keyboard usable. Developers have attempted to make some features accessible, but they have fallen short in doing so. It takes a blind CPRS user at least twice the time to enter information as it takes the sighted CPRS user.

Following are the standards that have been violated in Section 508, thus prompting Margie Donovan's complaint.

1. When software is designed to run on a system that has a keyboard, product functions shall be executable from a keyboard where the function itself or the result of performing a function can be discerned textually.

2. A well-defined on-screen indication of the current focus shall be provided that moves among interactive interface elements as the input focus changes. The focus shall be programmatically exposed so that assistive technology can track focus and focus changes.

3. Sufficient information about a user interface element including the identity, operation and state of the element shall be available to assistive technology. When an image represents a program element, the information conveyed by the image must also be available in text.

4. Textual information shall be provided through operating system functions for displaying text. The minimum information that shall be made available is: text content, text input, caret location, and text attributes.

Remember, there is absolutely nothing to fear. You are exercising your rights as a federal employee.

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