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Section 508 Compliance

If you work for a U.S. federal agency, or do business with one, your organization needs to comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. A landmark piece of digital accessibility legislation, Section 508 mandates that federal agencies create, buy, and use Information and Communication Technology (ICT) that is accessible to people with disabilities. ICT includes websites, software, applications, intranet sites and tools, and electronic documents. Because of this law, vendors doing business with, or seeking to do business with, the federal government must provide proof that their digital products are accessible. That proof comes in the form of a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template, or VPAT®: a document that details how ICT products and services, such as software, meet Section 508 accessibility requirements.

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Risks of non-compliance with Section 508

Federal agencies can be sued for non-compliance with Section 508. In fact, several have, including the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Social Security Administration.

In the private sector, neglecting to meet Section 508 accessibility requirements may put your existing contracts at risk and mean missing out on new business opportunities.

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Section 508 accessibility requirements

In 2018, a refresh of Section 508 adopted the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as the standard for ICT accessibility. WCAG is a set of technical guidelines that, when followed, make digital content accessible for individuals with disabilities. At a high level, WCAG standards suggest a site should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust for every user of every ability.

Updates to WCAG are reflected in the version number. For example, the first release was WCAG 1.0. Subsequent releases include 2.0, 2.1, and 2.2. There are also three levels of WCAG conformance: A, AA, and AAA. Each level builds on the previous level like a pyramid. So, to meet Level AA, you must meet all of Level A, and to meet Level AAA, you must meet all of Level AA.

To comply with Section 508, ICT must conform with WCAG version 2.0 AA.

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How to achieve Section 508 compliance

The best way to meet the accessibility requirements of Section 508 is to work with a third-party expert. The right partnerwill evaluate your current state of ICT accessibility, help you swiftly prioritize and resolve any issues identified, and implement continuous monitoring for lasting compliance.Our team of experts thoroughly understand Section 508 compliance obligations and WCAG standards. Our holistic approach to accessibility combines advanced technology with manual testing, training, and legal expertise to ensure you achieve, and maintain, Section 508 compliance.We offer the only digital accessibility solution authorized by the federal government’s Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), streamlining procurement and onboarding for federal agencies. And if you’re a government vendor, we’ll equip you with a VPATso you can sell your product with confidence.

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Our risk assessment will help you understand your digital accessibility health score and your current level of Section 508 compliance.

Frequently asked questions

What is Section 508 compliance?

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires federal agencies to create, buy, and use information and communication technology (ICT) that’s accessible. ICT includes software and websites, electronic documents (such as PDFs), multimedia content, phones, call centers, and more. Specifically, Section 508 evaluates web accessibility according to the success criteria of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA. That means to be compliant with Section 508, federal agencies, and those doing business with federal agencies, must make sure their ICT conforms with WCAG 2.0 AA.

While Section 508 is a federal law, there may be implications for employees and agencies at the state level. Consult the Section 508 website to learn more about implications for state agencies and whether your state has enacted its own ICT accessibility laws.

Private sector organizations contracting with federal agencies are also required to comply with Section 508, ensuring any ICT they provide a federal agency is accessible.

Section 508 compliance testing is the process of checking information and communication technology (ICT) to ensure it meets accessibility requirements. ICT includes all pages of your website, software, applications, intranet sites and tools, and electronic documents. Section 508 defines web accessibility as conforming to the success criteria outlined in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 AA. Therefore, to comply with Section 508, ICT should conform with WCAG.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act is a U.S. federal law that mandates that federal agencies create and use information and communications technology (ICT) that is accessible to people with disabilities, including those using assistive technology. Section 508 applies to federal agencies and departments, ensuring all people with disabilities can use federal agency resources. It also applies to any vendors selling ICT to a federal agency.

The ADA is an anti-discrimination law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in physical spaces. While the specific language of the ADA does not mention digital accessibility compliance, recent U.S. court rulings and legal precedent make it clear the ADA applies to the digital world as well as the physical one.

While ADA compliance and Section 508 accessibility standards have some overlap, they’re best used in tandem as guidelines for digital accessibility. Together, the ADA and Section 508 help ensure that no business or agency, whether in the public or private sector, excludes individuals with disabilities from access to online content. Learn more about the difference between the ADA and Section 508.