Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) reiterated on Friday their insistence that the Department of Veterans Affairs do more to make the agency’s websites and information technology accessible to people with disabilities.
The lawmakers sent a letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough urging the agency to accelerate its efforts to remediate long-standing accessibility issues and provide consistent transparency into which of the VA’s websites are not yet accessible.
Friday’s letter was a written answer to the secretary’s July 31 response to the lawmakers’ previous letter regarding VA compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires federal websites and other federal electronic and information technology to be accessible for people with disabilities. As of June 7, when the original letter was sent, only 10% of the VA’s websites were accessible for people with disabilities, including blind, deaf and paralyzed veterans.
The secretary responded to the June letter, providing more information about the department’s remediation efforts. Among other efforts, the agency will change how it reports on its website accessibility based on which sites are most frequently, he said.
Casey, Tester and Takano, however, said they have lingering concerns and requested that the VA:
- report back to them on how it will conduct outreach to a diverse array of disability groups beyond existing relationships with veterans service organizations;
- provide them with an updates on contracting a new vendor to scan websites for accessibility; and
- keep them apprised of progress and timeline of establishing an accessibility office within the agency.
Casey’s bipartisan Department of Veterans Affairs Website Accessibility Act, which directs the VA to report to Congress regarding the accessibility of VA websites to people with disabilities, became law in December 2020.