Website policies and notices

Accessibility, linking, open source, privacy, and more

Read the U.S. Web Design System (USWDS) policies on accessibility, linking, open source, privacy, and more. These policies and notices apply only to our websites — designsystem.digital.gov and public-sans.digital.gov — and not any other government websites.

Accessibility policy

We strive to make our website as accessible and usable as possible. We do this by following Section 508 laws and policies and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.1) produced by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C, the web’s governing body).

Section 508 is a legal requirement and WCAG is a set of checkpoints and guidelines that help ensure that websites are designed and written properly. For example:

  • Images have alternative text (so if you can’t see the image you can still read text that describes the image).

  • Color contrast between the foreground and background is sufficiently strong.

  • Text resizes according to user preference.

  • Headings are correctly used (they’re not just ordinary text made to look big and bold).

  • Links make sense and describe the destination (e.g., no links that just say “Click here” or “More…”).

  • Tables are used for laying out tabular information and have proper headings.

For those familiar with Section 508 and WCAG, we aim for AA compliance across our site. We also look for opportunities to meet AAA compliance.

Accessibility feedback

If you have a problem using our site, please email us at uswds@gsa.gov and provide the URL (web address) of the material you tried to access, the problem you experienced, and your contact information. We’ll attempt to provide the information you’re seeking.

Additional accessibility help

If you have any type of disability, we recommend that you visit the FCC’s accessibility clearinghouse and U.S. Access Board’s resources for information and communication technology. You’ll find expert advice such as alternative screen readers, screen magnifiers and other devices that can make using a computer easier and more enjoyable.

Linking policy

We link to publicly available websites that are government-owned or government-sponsored, unless directed not to by the agency that owns the site. Such websites are hosted on domains that end in .gov, .mil and .fed.us.

We also link to quasi-government agencies and websites created by public sector/private sector partnerships, state and local government sites (e.g., maryland.gov), and some government-sponsored websites that end in .com, .org, or .net (e.g., usps.com for the U.S. Postal Service).

We also link to websites that are not government-owned or government-sponsored if these websites provide government information and/or services in a way that is not available on an official government website. We provide these non-government websites as a public service only.

The U.S. government, including the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA, the primary sponsoring federal agency of the U.S. Web Design System), neither endorses nor guarantees in any way the external organizations, services, advice, or products included in these website links. Furthermore, the U.S. government neither controls nor guarantees the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of the information contained in non-government website links.

Disclaimer of endorsement

The information posted on this website includes hypertext links, or pointers, to information created and maintained by other public and/or private organizations. We only provide these links and pointers for your information and convenience. When you select a link to an outside website, you are leaving our websites and are subject to the privacy and security policies of the owners/sponsors of the outside website.

  • GSA and USWDS:

  • Do not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of information contained on a linked website.

  • Do not endorse the organizations sponsoring linked websites and we do not endorse the views they express or the products/services they offer.

  • Cannot authorize the use of copyrighted materials contained in linked websites. Users must request such authorization from the sponsor of the linked website.

  • Are not responsible for transmissions users receive from linked websites.

  • Do not guarantee that outside websites comply with Section 508 (accessibility requirements) of the Rehabilitation Act.

Evaluation criteria

We evaluate all links to external websites using the following criteria:

  • Is the website’s content relevant, useful, and authoritative?

  • Does the website’s information appear to be accurate and current?

  • Does the website complement existing information, products, and services?

  • Does the website appear to be accessible and applicable to a complementary audience?

  • Is the website’s approach to the privacy of personal information consistent with the government’s privacy and security policies?

  • Is the primary intent of the website to educate and inform, rather than persuade, convert, or sell? The site may include advertising but must be free from heavy marketing or promotion of products.

  • Is the website an official government-owned or supported website? If not, does the website provide government information and/or services in a way that is not available on an official government website?

  • Does the website provide information free of charge?

  • Is the website content consistent with sound public policy? Does it support the mission of GSA and its programs?

Open source policy

Use of open source software

We use open-source software and free or low cost, commercial application programming interfaces when it best meets the needs and mission of GSA.

Redistribution of code

  1. Software source code written entirely by GSA staff, and by contractors who are developing software on behalf of GSA, is by default a public domain work.

  2. Software source code previously released under an open source license and then modified by GSA staff is considered a “joint work.” It is partially copyrighted, partially public domain, and as a whole is protected by the copyrights of the non-government authors and must be released according to the terms of the original open-source license.

  3. All source code as defined above may be shared with the general public via a highly visible, easily accessible online source code community (such as Github or NPM) that facilitates the code’s reuse. Source code won’t be released if any of the following conditions are met:

  4. The USWDS core team determines that the code is too crude to merit distribution or provide value to the broader community.

  5. The government doesn’t have the rights to reproduce and release the item. The government has public release rights when the software is developed by government personnel, when the government receives an unlimited license  in software developed by a contractor at the government’s expense, or when the government modifies existing OSS.

  6. The public release of the item is restricted by other law or regulation, such as the Export Administration Regulations or the International Traffic in Arms Regulation.

  7. GSA cybersecurity staff determines that the public release of such code would pose an unacceptable risk to GSA’s operational security.

Privacy and security policies

Persistent cookies

Like many websites, our websites use “persistent cookie” technology. A persistent cookie is a small text file that this website places on your web browser so that it can gather anonymous summary demographic information, and remember your browser when it is used to visit our site again later—kind of like cookie crumbs! (Hence the name.) These cookies uniquely identify a browser on a computer, but never a person.  In other words, if the same person uses Chrome and Firefox, two unique browser cookies will be assigned, one for each browser, so that person will be counted as two different visitors because visits are based on browsers, not computers or persons. We use persistent cookies to enhance your experience on our site while also protecting your privacy:

  • To remember you when your browser comes back to the site, so we don’t invite you to take our customer satisfaction survey every time you visit. 

  • To get aggregate metrics on site usage to understand how people are using the site and how we can make it better. We use web metrics services to track activity on our websites. Government agencies only ever receive traffic statistics anonymously and in the aggregate.

Most Internet browsers automatically accept persistent cookies. Although using persistent cookies creates a much better experience for you, this site will also work without them. If you don’t want to accept cookies, you can edit your browser’s options to stop accepting persistent cookies or to prompt you before accepting a cookie from the websites you visit. You can follow USA.gov’s opt-out instructions to disable cookies and other web measurement and customization technologies.

We link to websites created and maintained by other public and/or private organizations as outlined in our Linking policy (see above). If you click a link to an outside website, you will leave this site, and are subject to the privacy and security policies of the owners/sponsors of the outside website.

Social media and collaboration sites

We manage a presence on social media and collaboration sites such as Github, NPM, and Twitter to share government information, and engage with our audience. We do not collect any personally identifiable information through those sites, and we do not use personal information made available by the third-party sites.

If you send us personal information

We do not collect personal information for any purpose other than to respond to your request. The only personal information that we collect is what you decide to give us by joining our community or asking to receive updates about the design system

We only share the information you give us with another government agency if your question relates to that agency, or as otherwise required by law. We do not disclose, give, sell, or transfer any personal information about our visitors, unless required by law enforcement or statute.

System requirements notice

When you click on a link below, you will leave our site and go to a non-government website. We do not endorse these sites. We provide the links so you can get the free software needed to view some documents or to access audio and visual files on this website. They’re listed only for your convenience. Please direct questions about each tool to the respective vendor.

Free commercial downloads

Some documents on this website are in Portable Document Format (PDF). PDFs allow you to view publications in their original format regardless of what type of computer, browser, or operating system you use to access the Internet. To view, navigate, and print PDF documents, you’ll need the free PDF reader software. Visit GSA.gov’s list of accessibility aids to find links to PDF reader software.

Some content on this website may require use of other third-party plug-ins to view. Visit GSA.gov’s list of accessibility aids to find links to these plug-ins and aids.

Operating systems and browsers

We want you to have an easy time using our website and we are dedicated to providing a quality service for our visitors, but some parts of the experience are out of our control. We support the operating systems and tools used by the majority of visitors to our site, and we’ve tested this site on the latest versions of the most popular mobile devices and web browsers. We officially support any browser above 2% usage as observed by analytics.usa.gov. For our mobile visitors, we support browsers on Android and iOS.

If you have any problems using our website, please email us at uswds@designsystem.digital.gov and let us know what type of device you’re using, the operating system, your web browser’s version number, the URL (web page address) of the page you were viewing, and details about the problem you experienced. We’ll use this information to try to fix the problem.

Required content notice

Federal agencies are required to provide the following links to agency-level information on our websites. All the information below in available on GSA.gov: 

Reviewed/Updated: October 2021

Latest updates

Meaningful code and guidance updates are listed in the following table:

Date Description

Removed open government link. More information: uswds-site#2384


Added policies page. More information: uswds-site#1289