At Casey’s urging, new report was issued detailing issues with accessibility of VA’s websites and information technology systems
Casey: “I hope this report finally spurs the action that people with disabilities, older adults, and veterans deserve”
Washington, D.C. - Today, after the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of the Inspector General (VA OIG) issued a report on VA’s compliance with the accessibility standards set by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, released the following statement:
“I called for this report because the VA and the entire federal government needs to wake up to this issue. We would not ask someone using a wheelchair to walk up the courthouse steps, but we are doing something similar when we ask people with disabilities to use federal websites that are not accessible. The report shows that the Biden Administration has begun making long overdue progress on accessible technology at VA, but there is clearly more work to be done. I hope this report finally spurs the action that people with disabilities, older adults, and veterans deserve.”
Citing bipartisan legislation and oversight that Chairman Casey led in recent years, the report found that VA consistently failed to make its websites fully accessible for people with disabilities as required by law. Between 2019 and 2022, fewer than 11 percent of VA’s public-facing websites were fully accessible, and fewer than 9 percent of its internal websites were fully accessible, the report found. Moreover, VA did not follow its own policies to ensure websites and technology were compliant with federal accessibility law, including a failure to track the accessibility of more than 200,000 internal websites. The report issued six recommendations, including that VA establish mechanisms to ensure web accessibility policies are enforced across the Department.
Chairman Casey has long led calls in Congress for improving the accessibility of government websites and other technology. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires federal technology to be accessible for, and usable by, people with disabilities. However, in a report issued in December 2022 entitled Unlocking the Virtual Front Door, Chairman Casey found that inaccessible federal technology creates barriers for people with disabilities to access essential services, including VA benefits, health care, employment, Social Security, and more. Chairman Casey’s report issued 12 recommendations, including a call for inspectors general to increase independent oversight of Section 508 compliance—a recommendation that the Biden Administration adopted in December via a report issued by the General Services Administration and guidance from the Office of Management and Budget.
In 2020, Chairman Casey passed the VA Website Accessibility Act that required VA to report on the accessibility of the Department’s websites and kiosks. VA’s report to Congress, released in 2021, found that only 10 percent of VA’s websites were fully accessible. In response, Chairman Casey led a bipartisan push for VA to do better. This week’s VA OIG report found results that corroborated Casey’s findings in his own report, Unlocking the Virtual Front Door—namely, that there are many steps VA needs to take to ensure that its websites and information technology systems are equally accessible to all.
To further advance accessibility at VA, Chairman Casey last year introduced the bipartisan Veterans Accessibility Act, which is supported by 15 veterans service organizations and disability groups. The legislation would establish a Veterans Advisory Committee on Equal Access at VA that issues regular reports on VA’s compliance with federal disability laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. The reports will include recommendations for improving VA’s compliance, and will be shared with Congress, the public, and agencies that oversee the Nation’s disability laws. Veterans with disabilities will be among the advisory committee’s members, ensuring that their voices are heard.