Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (as amended 1998) (29 USC § 794d) requires that when U.S. Federal government agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology (called EIT in the current law), federal employees with disabilities must have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access and use by federal employees who do not have disabilities, unless such a change would impose an undue burden on the agency. Additionally, individuals with disabilities who are seeking information or services from a federal agency must have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that provided to individuals without disabilities, unless such a change would impose an undue burden on the agency.
Section 508 covers technology procured by the federal agency under contract with a private entity and produced within the organization itself.
- telecommunication products (e.g., telephones; information kiosks, and transaction machines);
- multimedia (e.g., content on videotapes, CDs, and DVDs);
- Office equipment (e.g., copiers and fax machines); and services.
The Section 508 Refresh also makes a change in the terminology from Electronic and Information Technology (EIT) to Information and Communications Technology (ICT). The term ICT encompasses EIT as well as other communication technology such as Voice over IP (VoIP), telecommunication products, and customer premises equipment (CPE) used for telecommunications. This updated term also takes into account modern communication methods and fits better with the harmonized Section 508 and Section 255 standards. This terminology change does not practically alter the applicability of the standards and guidelines to what was previously covered.
This proposal restructures Section 508 around feature capabilities of products and services rather than types of products or services. After all, modern technology often combines different functionality into one product or service.
For example, a mobile phone contains:
- telecommunications services,
- web content, and
- multimedia, all in one product.
Restructuring the standards and guidelines will allow those determining compliance to evaluate the product or service based on the features that it has rather than what type of product or service it is. This should reduce confusion about applicable requirements and remove repetitive standards and guidelines that were previously placed in each section to address the same issues across product types.