The Section 508 Refresh recognizes the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 as the success criteria applicable to websites, electronic documents, and software. This brings the 508 Standards up to date with the technologies available today, ensuring that individuals with disabilities are able to use them. WCAG 2.0 is technology-neutral, so it is easily applied to all sorts of technology.
Using WCAG 2.0 will also bring the US government and its vendors into harmony with the international accessibility community. This will help create a uniform experience for users with disabilities around the world and allow vendors to conform to WCAG 2 A and AA standard and know their product or service will conform to Section 508.
Functional Performance and Tech Requirements
Functional performance criteria are outcome-based standards that define whether something can be accessed by a person with disability. For example, The Board has clarified that the Functional Performance Criteria only apply in situations where a technology standard/guideline does not exist to address the situation. They also apply when a technical standard cannot be met. In the current Section 508, the purpose of the functional performance objectives was nebulous and thus some agencies considered that both functional and technical standards had to be met.
This change could, in theory, allow ICT that meets the technical requirements but is not usable by people with disabilities. On the other hand, it allows vendors to know this when they create products that meet the technical specification. There will not be a separate evaluation against functional criteria that are not as clear as technical standards, so validation will be much easier.
The functional performance criteria have been updated and some additional ones added (e.g., color perception and limited reach and strength). Section 508 still covers access by people with cognitive disabilities via relevant technical standards; however, there are no functional performance criteria related to cognitive disabilities. In addition, there are other functional performance criteria that may also likely need to be considered in the future (e.g., depth perception).