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Federal Highway Administration Research and Technology
Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-15-058    Date:  February 2017
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-15-058
Date: February 2017


Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center R&D Communication Reference Guide



This chapter details the applicable laws, rules, and FHWA policies affecting all RD&T publications.

Any RD&T publication, website, or other communication product—including published, printed, reprinted, electronic, Internet material, and compact discs (CDs) sponsored or funded by FHWA RD&T offices—must be published or posted on the Web through HRTM. This policy ensures compliance with various publishing guidelines and Federal regulations, consistency across products, and high standards for both academic and general communications. The HRTM office sets guidelines for publishing RD&T communication products and has coordinated with other offices involved in the process, including RD&T staff managers, HPA, and FHWA legal offices.

HPA must provide initial and final clearance approvals for all publications, even if the publication will be published only electronically or on the Internet. This policy applies to all electronic publications.

Recognizing the important role that information plays in Federal and non-Federal decisionmaking, Congress passed the Data Quality Act as part of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001.(8) In brief, the Data Quality Act (also known as the Information Quality Law) requires all Federal agencies to strive toward issuing the highest quality information that is accurate, timely, and responsive to the needs of the public.(8) The act also requires agencies to provide a means for the public to challenge information that appears to be inaccurate or that does not comply with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies.(9)

In addition to the Freedom of Information Act, the Paperwork Reduction Act, the Paperwork Elimination Act, the Data Quality Act, and the presidential memorandum of June 1, 1998, about using plain language, products must comply with current policy requirements of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act for electronic information and technology dissemination. (See references 10–12, 8, 13, and 14.)

The Plain Language Act of 2010 requires the Federal Government to write all new publications, forms, and publicly distributed documents in a “clear, concise, well-organized” manner.(15,16) Any and all publications, forms, and publicly distributed documents or websites procured through this effort also must meet the applicable provisions of the Plain Writing Act of 2010 (Public Law 111–274).(17) Guidance for complying with the act can be found in the Federal Plain Language Guidelines at http://www.plainlanguage.gov.(18) All deliverables for posting on the World Wide Web must also comply with the appropriate provisions of the Act. Noncomplying deliverables will be returned to the contractor to be brought into conformance at the contractor’s expense. See the USDOT’s Plain Language Checklist for more information.(16)

Under Federal law, all printing and duplicating must be performed through GPO.(5) No more than 10 copies may be generated outside a GPO contract. In addition, a document published by USDOT should be prepared in accordance with the instructions and guidelines provided in the latest versions of the GPO Style Manual, USDOT and FHWA orders, and the accessibility requirements in Section 508 of the 1998 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.(2,13,19)


The Copyright Act defines publishing in the following manner:(20)

  1. to perform or display it at a place open to the public or at any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family and its social acquaintances is gathered; or

  2. to transmit or otherwise communicate a performance or display of the work to a place specified by clause (1) or to the public, by means of any device or process, whether the members of the public capable of receiving the performance or display receive it in the same place or in separate places and at the same time or at different times.


Each time a publication is prepared for printing, an electronic version must also be prepared for online use on an FHWA website.(12) All electronic and Internet publications must be compliant with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.(14) Electronic documents must be placed at an approved website URL or a Web address (such as www.fhwa.dot.gov/research).(1)


In 1998, Congress amended the 1973 Rehabilitation Act to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities.(14,19) The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use EIT.(14) Under Section 508, agencies must provide employees with disabilities and members of the public access to information that is comparable to access available to others.(14,19)

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act states that all electronic products produced by Government agencies must be accessible to persons with disabilities, including those persons with vision, hearing, cognitive, and mobility impairments.(14) The Paperwork Elimination Act and FHWA require that printed publications must be available in electronic format; final printed documents must provide minimum Section 508 compliance requirements.(12,14) In addition, FHWA requires that all documents will be made Section 508 compliant when they are posted to a website.(14,19,21)

Section 508 affects the following RD&T products:(14)


Section 508 is not only the law, but it is also mandated by FHWA Order 1370.13.(27) For this reason, the research contract office representative must communicate the importance of preparing documents in accordance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act to the research contractor.(14,19) To do so, information relevant to Section 508 law must be attached to all statements of work and contracts for preparing publications, websites, multimedia presentations, and other electronic communication products. While Section 508 currently does not apply to one-time purchases of $3,000 or less, contract office representatives are to comply with the applicable accessibility standards.(14) Please note that if your intent is to print or publish (e.g., make the document available to the public) the final product, it must meet the 508 accessibility requirements for electronic posting regardless of the dollar value of the purchased product.(20,12,14)

Please remember that HPA must review and approve all publication or Web content prior to publishing the information on any website.



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