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Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act


Posted September 22, 2015

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The Law

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was the first major legislative effort to secure an equal playing field for individuals with disabilities. Section 508 of the act, as now amended (1998), requires that United States Federal Government employees with disabilities must have access to electronic and information technologies (EIT) that is equivalent to employees without disabilities. Section 508 also pertains to individuals in the public who are seeking services and/or information from a Federal agency. 

From United States Access Board – “Section 508: The Law”

Federal agencies are subject to section 508 when EITs are being procured, developed and/or maintained, and when they are in use. 

What are EITs?

  • Electronic and Information Technologies include: 

As a consistent baseline standard for many state and federal institutions in the United States, Section 508 includes a set of technical specifications for web accessibility. At a minimum, websites should meet the following criteria to satisfy Section 508.

§ 1194.22 Web-based intranet and Internet information and applications (16 Rules)

  1. A text equivalent for every non-text element shall be provided (e.g., via “alt”, “longdesc”, or in element content). 
  2. Equivalent alternatives for any multimedia presentation shall be synchronized with the presentation. 
  3. Web pages shall be designed so that all information conveyed with color is also available without color, for example from context or markup. 
  4. Documents shall be organized so they are readable without requiring an associated style sheet. 
  5. Redundant text links shall be provided for each active region of a server-side image map. 
  6. Client-side image maps shall be provided instead of server-side image maps, except where the regions cannot be defined with an available geometric shape. 
  7. Row and column headers shall be identified for data tables. 
  8. Markup shall be used to associate data and header cells for data tables that have two or more logical levels of row or column headers.
  9. Frames shall be titled with text that facilitates frame identification and navigation. 
  10. Pages shall be designed to avoid causing the screen to flicker with a frequency greater than 2 Hz and lower than 55 Hz. 
  11. A text-only page, with equivalent information or functionality, shall be provided to make a Web site comply with the provisions of this part, when compliance cannot be accomplished in any other way. The content of the text-only page shall be updated whenever the primary page changes.
  12. When pages utilize scripting languages to display content, or to create interface elements, the information provided by the script shall be identified with functional text that can be read by assistive technology. 
  13. When a web page requires that an applet, plug-in, or other application be present on the client system to interpret page content, the page must provide a link to a plug-in or applet that complies with §1194.21(a) through (l).
  14. When electronic forms are designed to be completed on-line, the form shall allow people using assistive technology to access the information, field elements, and functionality required for completion and submission of the form, including all directions and cues. 
  15. A method shall be provided that permits users to skip repetitive navigation links.
  16. When a timed response is required, the user shall be alerted and given sufficient time to indicate that more time is required. 

Section 508 Refresh

In brief, the United States Access Board is proposing to refresh and revise standards set forth in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Their goal is to incorporate the changed and new terminologies and innovations that have been made since the Section 508 amendment was signed into law in 1998. 

Since technology is continually evolving, the refresh will focus on the capabilities of a product rather than the product itself. The refresh will also incorporate aspects of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 for websites, software, and off-line documents. 

Read more about the Section 508 Refresh

Source Articles

United States Access Board

Quick Reference Guide to Section 508 Requirements and Standards\

Related Articles

Understanding WCAG 2.0

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