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Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act

Posted September 21, 2015


Posted September 21, 2015

illustration of accessibility icon with text section 508

Summary: 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. Section 508 requires access to information and communication technology (ICT) developed, procured, maintained, or used by federal agencies.

What are ICTs?

Information and communication technology includes: computers and peripheral equipment; information kiosks and transaction machines; telecommunications equipment; customer premises equipment; multifunction office machines; software; applications; Web sites; videos; and, electronic documents.

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. 

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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