Section 508 Accessibility compliance

Introduction to Section 508 Accessibility Compliance:

History: Section 508 refers to a U.S. federal law that mandates federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities. The law is an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, open new opportunities for people with disabilities, and encourage the development of technologies that would help achieve these goals.

Purpose: The primary purpose of Section 508 is to ensure that individuals with disabilities have comparable access to and use of federal electronic and information technology, as compared to individuals without disabilities. It covers a wide range of technologies, including websites, software, hardware, multimedia, and more.

Key Components: Section 508 outlines specific standards and requirements for accessibility, addressing various aspects such as software applications, websites, video content, and hardware. The standards are aligned with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to ensure a consistent and inclusive approach to accessibility.

Example Standards:

Some of the key standards under Section 508 include:

  • 1194.22 Web-based Intranet and Internet Information and Applications:

This section addresses the accessibility of websites and web applications.

  • 1194.21 Software Applications and Operating Systems:

Focuses on the accessibility of software applications and operating systems.

  • 1194.24 Video and Multimedia Products:

Ensures that multimedia content is accessible to individuals with disabilities.

Enforcement: Section 508 compliance is enforced by the U.S. Access Board. Federal agencies are required to conform to these standards when developing, procuring, maintaining, or using electronic and information technology.

Impact: Section 508 compliance not only facilitates accessibility for individuals with disabilities but also sets a standard for accessibility in the broader context, influencing private sector practices and serving as a model for other countries’ accessibility legislation.

In summary, Section 508 plays a crucial role in promoting digital accessibility, ensuring that federal agencies lead by example in creating an inclusive and accessible digital environment.


How to achieve Section 508 compliance

Achieving Section 508 compliance involves ensuring that electronic and information technology (EIT) used or developed by federal agencies is accessible to individuals with disabilities. Key steps include understanding the specific standards outlined in Section 508, which cover aspects like software applications, websites, multimedia, and more. Alignment with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is crucial, as Section 508 standards align with WCAG, providing comprehensive guidelines for web accessibility. Regular accessibility audits, training programs, integration of accessibility into procurement policies, documentation of accessibility features, user testing, prompt remediation of identified issues, staying informed about updates, designating an accessibility coordinator, including accessibility statements, and collaborating with the accessibility community are essential components. By integrating these steps into organizational processes, you can work towards achieving and maintaining Section 508 compliance, fostering a more inclusive digital environment for all users.