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What is Section 508? Where do we start?

1 April, 2020 by Shilpi Kapoor

A user working on a computer and a mobile phone! What is Section 508?

Section 508 is a law. Yes a law, that requires Federal agencies to ensure that their Electronic & Information Technology is accessible to people with disabilities.

In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Who does Section 508 apply to?

It applies to all Federal agencies.

What does Section 508 cover?

It covers all electronic & information technology which is either developed, procured, maintained, or used. Some of the items it would cover would be computers, printers, softwares, websites, information kiosks and electronic documents.

So let’s demystify that. If a federal agency buys a software to conduct surveys, or develops a Human Resource management system or buys office productivity suites for their employees to use, all those technologies must comply with Section 508.

What is the Section 508 Standard and what does it include?

The standards and guidelines for Section 508 were revised and updated on on January 18, 2017 and then amended on March 23, 2018.

One of the key things that the Final Rules included was referencing and thereby incorporating the Web Content Accessibility Guideline 2.0. This was critical and it went beyond that by applying the Level A and AA Success Criteria’s as developed by the W3C WAI. This also was a set towards harmonising with the international accessibility standards in specific the European Standards EN 301 549.

It looked to bring about clarity on what type of solutions needed to be compliant for example, the confusion on which electronic documents need to be accessible.

It highlighted that operating systems must also provide accessibility features and options and must interoperate with the assistive technologies needed by the diverse disability groups.

So if you are looking to sell your product or service to federal agencies, you cannot and should not ignore Section 508. You can even look at making accessibility a differentiator.

At BarrierBreak, we assist our customers to meet Section 508 compliance. Feel free to email us to discuss Section 508 Testing.

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