The lowdown on Section 508

What is it? Section 508 encompasses the rules federal agencies must follow in publishing electronic documents and otherwise making them accessible to disabled staff or citizens.

Section 508 provisions apply to all IT products bought after Jan. 1, 2003. Other sections of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998, such as 504, require that agencies make federal programs accessible, while sections 501 and 504 require reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.

Why do I need it? First, it's a regulation. But more important, it's necessary if documents and data are to be available to everyone who needsthem.

A study this year by Forrester Research Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., commissioned by Microsoft Corp., found that among adult computer users in the United States:
  • 1 in 4 has a vision difficulty

  • 1 in 4 has a dexterity difficulty

  • 1 in 5 has a hearing difficulty.

Must Know Info? For the vast majority of offices, Section 508 purchase compliance is required, not optional. Starting Oct. 1, 2004, 508 compliance rules for purchasing products were expanded to include micropurchases.


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