Section 508 compliance directly impacts federal organizations, programs, and contractors. This amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the first federal law to forbid disability discrimination, requires federal agencies to provide Information and Communications Technology (ICT) accessible to people with disabilities.
Let’s start by learning how Section 508 pertains to ICT.
What is Section 508 Compliance & What Does It Impact?
Section 508 specifically addresses digital accessibility and all electronic communication, including:
- Public-facing website pages
- Website forms
- Emails sent internally and externally
- Software and all apps (including mobile)
- Online training materials
- Employment application pages
- All digital files like PDFs
How Do Section 508 Guidelines Impact My Organization?
Section 508 is a federal legislation, but it may also impact:
- Financially assisted (U.S. government ) state, county, and civil authorities
- Federally assisted universities, museums, galleries, medical centers, and other organizations.
- Contractors spanning all sizes and services that work with the U.S. government.
However, section 508 guidelines do not apply to agency-operated technology concerning national security systems. The law also excludes conformance that causes extreme burdens or requires a foundational change in the nature of ICT. Nonetheless, in these instances, organizations still must provide alternatives for people with disabilities to access information and services.
How is Section 508 Different from the ADA?
Section 508 of the rehabilitation act concerns federally-funded agencies and organizations, such as contractors and suppliers. It mandates that such organizations provide digital communications conforming to 508 compliance requirements that also comply with Level AA of WCAG.
The (ADA) applies to businesses open to the public, nonprofits, and regional and state governments. Title III of the ADA forbids discrimination against people with disabilities in public places. It’s also important to note that U.S. courts increasingly rule that the ADA applies to websites and mobile apps.
What Are the 508 Compliance Requirements?
The U.S. Access Board has easy-to-understand accessibility guidelines included in Section 508. Additionally, the board integrated WCAG 2.0 into Section 508 standards in 2017. The latest updates mandate that agencies comply with Level A and Level AA of WCAG. Organizations must also provide digital content compatible with various assistive technologies like screen readers.
What Is a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template?
A Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) shows how (ICT) products comply with revised 508 standards. It conveys that digital information and communications must be accessible to all people. Moreover, federal agencies and organizations must provide ICT that conforms to Section 508 accessibility standards.
A VPAT thoroughly scrutinizes these agencies’ services to verify their conformance to Section 508. This assessment helps organizations report their products’ compliance, and it’s their responsibility to finalize a VPAT to ensure these products comply.
What’s the Risk of Non-Compliance?
Failure to comply with Section 508 or any other digital accessibility law has considerable legal risks. Related lawsuits are increasing rapidly, and the costs can be severe and even crippling for smaller organizations—case and point: more than 3,000 organizations faced accessibility-related lawsuits in 2022 alone.
If the legal penalties aren’t enough to worry about, these lawsuits can be a PR disaster for any organization. Nonetheless, integrating assistive technology tools and following web best practices for conformance can help you avoid these legal impacts and harmful press exposure.
5 Tips for Section 508 Compliance
- Provide assistive technology that enables people with fine motor skill impairments to function with just a keyboard.
- Highlight all interactive, on-screen variables.
- Provide alt text for every non-text variable.
- Integrate the recommended color contrast ratios, and ensure that color isn’t the only variable conveying the meaning of information.
- Organize documents without the need for associated style sheets. In addition, no web page should need a cascading style sheet to view or navigate.
Beyond the accessibility and legal reasons, what’s the true meaning of Section 508? Like all laws that support and enforce digital inclusivity, Section 508 compliance is about creating a barrier-free web for everyone. Unfortunately, people with disabilities have faced exclusion from websites and digital devices for far too long. Organizations can help to reverse this problem. Making a concerted effort to satisfy Section 508 compliance is an excellent way to do your part. See how companies benefit from ongoing compliance support with UserWay.
UserWay: Accessibility & Compliance Solved
UserWay’s AI-powered technologies enable you to comply with Section 508 and all other related laws. Products like the UserWay Widget 4.0 is just one example of how UserWay can help your organization remain accessible and legally protected.
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What is the 2017 update to Section 508?
This critical update applies to accessibility requirements for ICT. In addition, it intends to update Section 508 requirements established nearly 45 years before to support 21st-century technology.
What Documents are Covered by Section 508?
Section 508 applies to all website content, PDFs, email transmissions, desktop, and mobile apps.
What’s the Purpose of Section 508 Testing?
Section 508 testing enables businesses to test websites and digital content for WCAG compliance to help ensure people of all abilities have complete access.