Section 508 Compliance
Federal agencies, private entities that receive public funding and Independent Software Vendors are required by law to make Information and Communication Technology (ICT) accessible.
What is Section 508?
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a law that requires the Federal Government to provide access to its Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to people with disabilities. ICT applies to the information technology and other equipment your agency procures, develops, uses, and maintains. In short, this policy aims to make websites, web apps, electronic documents, and software accessible to people with disabilities.
This law not only affects all federal agencies, but private entities such as contractors, Independent Software Vendors selling to the Federal Government and organizations who receive federal funding. It’s important to be proactive about accessibility and compliance, as drive-by demands & lawsuits have been on the rise for federal agencies and institutions.
Section 508 includes the following exceptions:
- Any ICT, component of ICT, or portion of ICT falls under the safe harbor provision. In other words, any legacy ICT that is unaltered and existing before or on January 18, 2018, does not need adhere to new standards until it’s updated or changed.
- Any ICT that has been acquired by a contractor incidental to a contract does not have to comply with Section 508.
The original law was put into effect in 1998 and was refreshed in 2018. The refresh of this legislation filled in gaps in the standards and aligned with international standards. In fact, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 level A and AA are explicitly referenced in the refreshed Section 508.
How to take action and meet Section 508 compliance requirements
Section 508 was updated in 2018 explicitly referencing the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 level A and AA. If you already know about WCAG you’re in great shape. To work toward compliance, we recommend incorporating accessibility testing into existing testing processes. Accessibility should be a sustainable, permanent part of your workflow. If you’re already practicing Agile, this approach will come naturally for you. In other words, testing early and often so that accessibility is a proactive measure, to achieve compliance most efficiently.
Beyond viewing accessibility from a compliance point of view, it is important to remember your customers with disabilities want accessible ICT. An accessible and Inclusive design approach makes for a better citizen experience, including making information accessible to all constituents.
Below are a few initial steps you can take to work toward compliance:
- Update your agency’s accessibility and conformance policies to reflect the 508 Refresh
- Ensure your employees and testers are sufficiently trained
- Determine if your website, mobile apps and documents are accessible
- Update your procurement language in your contracts
- If you aren’t already, start using an automated tool to regularly test your website
- Develop a plan to monitor and measure accessibility success
Benefits of Section 508 Compliance
Serving a wider audience
Accessible content will widen your available target audience addressing the needs of all constituents.
Decreased legal risk
Organizations who actively pursue accessibility excellence are better positioned to address claims and avoid costly violations.
Increased Search Presence
Providing transcripts for audio visual files are discoverable by search engines.
Better overall user experience
Studies show that optimizations made in UI/UX for accessibility also benefit people without disabilities.
Guide Revised 508 Standards Roadmap
Webinar Section 508, WCAG, and Digital Accessibility in the Federal Government: What You Need to Know
Webpage Digital Accessibility for a 21st Century Government
How Deque Can Help
Responding to an immediate need, or building the foundation for a sustainable and long term digital accessibility practice, Deque has the most complete suite of tools, services and training available. Our accessibility library has been downloaded over 4M times. Our accessibility testing extensions have been downloaded over 250,000 times, and we’ve completed over 1,000 projects.
Most accessibility projects begin and end with an audit – they assess the current state of your site or application’s accessibility resulting in a clear accessibility report.Learn More about accessibility audits
This patented tool helps fix accessibility defects in existing web content without changing the underlying source code. This is the fastest DIY path to getting compliant asap.Learn More about Amaze software
Getting help from our team of experts will ensure your accessibility fixes will meet your compliance requirements as quickly and effectively as possible.Learn More about accessibility remediation
WorldSpace Attest, Assure and Comply enables accessibility experts and development to test and maintain accessibility end-to-end.Learn More about the WorldSpace Suite