5 things you need to know about Section 508
Section 508 is a federal law that requires electronic and information technology (EIT) used by the federal government to be accessible to people with disabilities.
It aims to eliminate barriers in EIT that prevent people with disabilities from accessing information and participating in government programs and services.
Section 508 applies only to federal agencies and organizations that receive federal funding.
Section 508 has detailed technical requirements for EIT accessibility based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA.
Non-compliance with Section 508 can result in legal liability, lost business opportunities, and reputational damage.
What is Section 508?
Section 508 is a federal law that requires electronic and information technology (EIT) used by the federal government to be accessible to people with disabilities. This law, which was added to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in 1998, aims to ensure that people with disabilities have equal access to government information and services.
The purpose of Section 508 is to eliminate barriers in EIT that prevent people with disabilities from accessing information and participating in government programs and services. This includes barriers in software applications, websites, electronic documents, and multimedia. By making these technologies accessible, federal agencies can promote inclusion, increase efficiency, and provide better service to all citizens.
What are the differences between Section 508 and ADA Title III?
Although Section 508 and ADA Title III are both federal laws related to accessibility, they differ in their scope, application, and specific requirements.
The main distinction between them is that ADA Title III applies to all businesses and organizations that provide goods and services to the public, while Section 508 applies only to federal agencies and organizations that receive federal funding. Moreover, ADA Title III aims to ensure physical access to public places and online content, while Section 508 concentrates solely on guaranteeing access to Electronic and Information Technology (EIT) used by the federal government.
Another significant difference between ADA Title III and Section 508 is the level of specificity in their requirements. The DOJ enforces ADA Title III, which does not have explicit technical guidelines for website accessibility. Conversely, Section 508 has detailed technical requirements for EIT accessibility based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA.
What are the differences between Section 508 and Section 504?
Section 508 and Section 504 are both federal laws related to accessibility, but they differ in their scope and application.
Section 508 applies specifically to electronic and information technology (EIT) used by federal agencies and organizations that receive federal funding. It requires that this technology is accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public who use EIT to access government services and information.
Section 504, on the other hand, applies more broadly to programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. It prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all aspects of program or activity participation, including employment and access to programs and services. This can include physical access to buildings, transportation, and other accommodations.
While Section 508 specifically addresses EIT accessibility, Section 504 has a broader scope and covers accessibility across all programs and activities. Additionally, Section 508 is enforced by the Access Board and the General Services Administration, while Section 504 is enforced by various federal agencies depending on the program or activity in question.
Who is affected by Section 508?
Section 508 applies to all federal agencies and departments, as well as any organization that receives federal funding. This includes contractors and vendors who develop or maintain EIT for the government. It applies to both internal and external-facing technologies, meaning that all EIT used by federal employees or made available to the public must comply with the accessibility standards set forth in Section 508.
What are the Section 508 requirements?
One of the key features of Section 508 is its technical standards for EIT accessibility. These standards, which are based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA, specify the requirements for accessibility in detail. The standards cover a broad range of issues, including keyboard accessibility, text alternatives for non-text content, color contrast, and navigation. The standards also require that electronic documents and multimedia be made accessible, such as by including closed captions on videos.
In addition to the technical standards, Section 508 requires federal agencies to procure accessible EIT. This means that when purchasing new software or technology, federal agencies must consider accessibility and choose products that meet the Section 508 standards. Federal agencies are also required to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities who need to use EIT to access government information and services.
What are the costs associated with non-compliance?
One potential consequence of non-compliance is legal liability. Federal agencies and organizations that receive federal funding can be sued for failing to provide accessible EIT under Section 508. Lawsuits can result in costly settlements, legal fees, and damages awarded to plaintiffs.
Another cost is lost business opportunities. Organizations that do not comply with Section 508 may be excluded from government contracts or lose business from customers who require accessible EIT. This can result in lost revenue and decreased competitiveness.
Finally, non-compliance with Section 508 can result in reputational damage. Failing to provide accessible EIT can harm an organization's reputation and may lead to negative publicity, which can affect the organization's relationship with customers, partners, and stakeholders.
Section 508 is enforced by the U.S. Access Board, an independent federal agency that develops and maintains accessibility guidelines for the federal government. The Access Board provides technical assistance, training, and guidance to federal agencies to help them comply with Section 508. The Board also conducts compliance reviews and can take enforcement action against federal agencies that fail to comply with the law.
How can Clym help?
Clym believes in striking a balance between digital compliance and your business needs, which is why we offer businesses the following:
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