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How to Comply with Section 508: Guide to Getting There

508 Compliance

Everyone wins when Information and Communication Technology (ICT) reaches Section 508 compliance. Section 508 is an amendment of the United States Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that extends protections for individuals with disabilities to websites run by the government and organizations that receive government funding.

If your business’ ICT isn’t Section 508 compliant, your business could miss out on opportunities to work for the government.

According to the American Institutes for Research® (AIR), Americans with disabilities earn around $490 billion annually in disposable income.¹ ADA and Section 508 compliant web pages are accessible to people with disabilities, which makes them accessible to a larger potential audience.

An Exception to the 508 Compliance Requirement

Sometimes new electronic and information technology takes time to catch up to regulations. Businesses do not need to achieve 508 compliance if doing so imposes unreasonable cost or excessive difficulty.

The federal government isn’t off the hook like businesses. Federal agencies need to find an alternative ways to get information out to the public in all cases. Unlike the ADA, Section 508 doesn’t apply to every organization.²

Individual states have laws that can extend Section 508 requirements:

  • The California Government Code’s Section 11135 requires all state governmental entities and state funding recipients comply with Section 508.³
  • The Illinois Information Technology Accessibility Act (IITAA) requires state universities and agencies to ensure their website is barrier-free for people with disabilities.4

The Section 508 Update

The federal government issued an important update to Section 508 which became law in January 2018.5 Technology does not sit still, so it is essential to revise guidelines and requirements to adapt to evolving tech.

When standards aren’t updated with technology, those standards run the risk of being unable to serve the people they intend to protect and hold back technology development. The 2018 update makes it easier for organizations to comply with and understand Section 508 standards.

The revised 508 standards include:

  • Applying Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 to the law; WCAG 2.0 has been updated to WCAG 2.1 since.
  • Shifting the focus to qualitative functionality for how well ICT works with people with disabilities.
  • Requiring functionality for assistive technology like screen readers and other software.
  • Section 508 requires the concept of digital accessibility extend to people with cognitive, learning, and language abilities instead of just vision, hearing, and physical disabilities.

Section 508 compliance extends beyond web accessibility and software. All publicly accessible blogs and social media posts must all be compliant as well. Information that isn’t publicly accessible might be 508 compliance-required as well. The 2018 update specifies people with disabilities must have full access things like intranets, emergency bulletins, official receipts, training materials, and employment opportunities.

What If You’re Not 508 Compliant?

Anyone can file a demand letter when your entity isn’t in compliance with Section 508. If the situation escalates, your business may face a web accessibility lawsuit. Your business could miss out on opportunities to work with the government because the government can’t use non-compliant ICT.

Even if Section 508 doesn’t cover your business, following the WCAG 2.1 requirements will help avoid any complications with ADA compliance and conflicts with Canada’s AODA requirements.6

Not complying with ADA regulations can lead to litigation from individuals who are unable to use a website. It’s frustrating for people with disabilities in particular to use ICT that isn’t fully accessible. Therefore, not being in compliance is also bad for business.

Conversely, being able to boast how your ICT follows ADA standards by including features like alternative text and accessible PDFs can help bring in more business.7

Achieving 508 Compliance

Improving your digital accessibility isn’t as easy as flipping a switch. However, every business has the capacity to improve and seize new opportunities. A firm with experience in 508 compliance can help ease the process through running accessibility audits and training.

ICT accessibility involves more than just web designers. The U.S Access Board also offers valuable Section 508-related resources via its Section 508 Best Practices Webinar Series.8 These webinars focus on changes and updates to Section 508. If your organization works with the federal government or aspires to do so, Section 508 and ADA website content compliance will have you on the right track.

An Innovative Solution

eSSENTIAL Accessibility has plenty of resources available designed specifically to help organizations meet Section 508 compliance. Our latest WCAG whitepaper features an ADA Compliance Checklist to help businesses make sure they are following all aspects of the law. Find out how compliant you are today by downloading the free WCAG 2.1 Checklist here.

If you’d like to explore how a trusted accessibility partner can help your organization achieve and maintain 508 compliance, get in touch with the eSSENTIAL Accessibility team today.

References

  1. A Hidden Market: The Purchasing Power of Working-Age Adults With Disabilities, American Institutes for Research, 2018
  2. Americans with Disabilities Act: Title III Regulations, ADA, 2010
  3. California Government Code’s Section 11135, Onecle, 2016.
  4. Illinois Information Technology Accessibility Act (IITAA) Illinois Department of Human Services.
  5. Accessibility News: The Section 508 Update, Section508.gov
  6. About the AODA, Accessibility Services Canada, 2017
  7. Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT), Section 508, 2018
  8. Webinars, United States Access Board

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