Section 508 is a law that requires all federal agencies and non-profit organizations that receive financial assistance from the federal government to make their electrical, communication, and information technologies inclusive and accessible to all people, including those with disabilities.
It is important because it prevents discrimination against disabled people within a government institution. Making IT-related industries accessible to disabled persons can substantially improve their quality of life because they are crucial to people at all stages of life.
What Is Section 508?
Section 508 is actually a vital law that requires all federal agencies and organizations that receive government funding to provide accessibility for people with disabilities. We’ll be exploring what this means in practice and why it’s so important to have web accessibility.
The term “Section 508” is actually a former section of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which was amended by the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1983. This was a wide-ranging law that introduced many of the electronic accessibility standards we know and love today.
Section 508 guidelines specifically state that any federal agency or organization that receives federal financial assistance must comply with handicapped accessibility standards. It’s important to note that the ADA is a separate law and does not require any federal or non-government organization to comply with the ADA.
It can be interpreted as mandating equal access, but this is not it at all. The technology standards are set by the Access Board under Section 508 to ensure that people with disabilities are given the same opportunities as everyone else. Note that there are differences between Section 508 and ADA compliance.
Section 508 compels any information and communications technology-related agencies that receive federal aid to take the necessary steps to prevent discrimination based on the disabilities of an individual. ADA, on the other hand, is similar to this section but in a broader sense. It compels all agencies, whether government or private, to prevent discrimination in any public accommodation. A separate ruling has now included online assets.
How Does The Government Enforce Section 508?
Section 508’s enforceable portion is largely focused on procurement and is administered through the Federal Acquisition Regulations. Beginning in January 2001, Section 508 was included in the Federal Acquisition Regulations.
This implies that when the government purchases information and communication technology, it must choose the product that best fits accessibility criteria. For example, when a federal agency is buying a vending machine and has narrowed it down to five vending machines that match all the criteria. Section 508 dictates which one the federal agency must buy, the one that’s most accessible to disabled people.
Impacts Of Section 508?
The main impact of section 508 is that it made the government focus on accessibility programs and prioritize individuals with limitations and disabilities. Section 508 reshaped the government’s purchasing habits in its sector.
The private sector also took notes from this change. Another great impact of section 508 is that it forced federal agencies to establish accessibility programs. Government agencies now emphasize a lot more on accessibility and disability programs.
Why Is Section 508 Important?
Section 508 is important because it sets equal rights for people of all sorts in society. No one gets discriminated against because of their disabilities. All the government bodies present equal facilities to the taxpayers.
You cannot expect the private sector to introduce equal accessibility to all people if the federal bodies don’t do it first. Section 508 compels all government agencies and private agencies that receive federal aid to apply equal accessibility to everything related to information and communication technology.
This isn’t limited to just a webpage, but everything it is related to, such as software, mobile applications, documents, and even hardware interfaces like TVs, printers, scanners, etc.
For disabled people, Section 508 is important as it enables them to easily access information and technology-related resources. It compels federal agencies to abide by accessibility programs and ensures equal rights for all people. It is not limited to something trivial; it applies to everything related, from hardware like TVs, fridges, printers to websites, web content, eCommerce sites and everything in between.
ADA For Web is dedicated to ensure that website and client interactions follow accessibility guidelines. Contact us now to get a website accessibility audit.