How does the refreshed Section 508 rule affect your agency?

The updates help set the tone for what the federal government sees as a baseline for accessibility policies.

A part of The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 508 requires that government agencies provide individuals with disabilities equal access to their programs, services and activities. Specifically, Section 508 deals with electronic and services, including web page content, PDF documents and audio and video content and specifies requirements to ensure that all web content is accessible to people with disabilities. The latest update to Section 508, known as “the refresh,” went into effect March 21, 2017.

The number of people affected by Section 508 is significant. As much of the 10 percent of the population may be affected by blindness, low vision, learning disabilities or other difficulties that impair their abilities to access information. Section 508 mandates that federal agencies allow easier navigation, accessibility and readability through, for example, navigation aids embedded into documents that allow software to “read” materials in the right order, textual descriptions of images that the computer can “read” to people who cannot see them and adjustments to fonts and colors that make materials easier to read.

While the act is specific to federal agencies, its effect is much broader, as local and state governments, educational organizations and even private corporations often incorporate the requirements by reference -- some because of legal requirements, some because it’s a good business practice.

This article focuses on what changed in the refresh and how the refresh affects agency systems. The good news is that if agencies complied with the original Section 508 rule, then they are ahead of the game concerning the refreshed rule.  Simply put – agencies that were compliant are still compliant because there is a “safe harbor” clause embedded in the new rule that exempts existing or “legacy” IT from having to meet the refreshed rule. Keep in mind, though, that new or updated web pages created after the new rule went into effect must comply with the new rule by January of 2018.

While the discussion below enumerates a number of important changes that the refresh incorporates, the more important point is that the law helps set the tone for what the federal government sees as a baseline for accessibility policies, and it provides a renewed focus on the importance of making electronic content accessible to people with disabilities.

The following summarizes major changes as categorized in the Access Board guidelines:

Restructuring provisions by functionality instead of product type to keep better pace with the increasingly multifunctional capabilities of technology. The original standards used a product-by-product approach, mandating specific features to support common assistive technologies and specific use cases. For example, in 1998 mobile devices were rare and not addressed. The new standards take a functionality-based approach that will better keep pace with technological advances.

Incorporating the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. The final rule incorporates by reference a number of internationally accepted voluntary consensus standards, including WCAG 2.0. Issued by the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative. WCAG 2.0 is a globally recognized, technology-neutral standard for web content. The final rule applies WCAG 2.0 not only to web-based information but to all electronic content.

The benefits of incorporating the WCAG 2.0 into the Section 508 standards are significant. A substantial amount of WCAG 2.0 support material is available, WCAG 2.0-compliant accessibility features are already built into many products, and it promotes international harmonization as it is referenced by the European Commission, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Germany and France.

Specifying types of non-public facing electronic content that must comply.  In addition to public-facing materials, the standard also specifies non-public electronic content used by a federal agency for official business to communicate other important information, such as emergency notifications, initial or final decisions adjudicating administrative claims or proceedings, internal or external program or policy announcements, notices of benefits, program eligibility, employment opportunities or personnel actions, formal acknowledgements or receipts, questionnaires or surveys, templates or forms, educational or training materials and web-based intranets.

Requiring that operating systems provide accessibility features and clarifying that software and operating systems must interoperate with assistive technology. The standard includes requirements for software that directs the use and operation of technology for applications and mobile apps, operating systems and processes that transform or operate on information and data. These provisions cover the interoperability with assistive technology, applications and authoring tools, such as screen-magnification software and refreshable Braille displays.

Addressing access for people with cognitive, language and learning disabilities.  There’s a recognition in the standard of addressing  other disabilities, such as making sure there are not flashing lights on the screen that might cause difficulties for some people as well as making sure that distractions are reduced.

Harmonizing the requirements with international standards.  In 2014, the European Commission adopted the “Accessibility requirements for public procurement of information and communications technology products and services in Europe” (EN 301 549).  European governments can use the requirements as technical specifications or award criteria in public procurements of technology products and services. The Access Board has worked to ensure broad harmonization between its requirements and the European Commission’s standards. 

While Section 508 is a mandate for materials produced by the federal government, the standard is applicable to any organization that wants to make materials more accessible. Being 508 compliant is simply good business. It will make it easier for all customers to find content, and for employees to work more easily. That’s a rule refresh maybe we should all think about.

To learn more about Section 508 and the refreshed rule, you can visit Section508.gov.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.