Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 USC § 794d) requires federal agencies to develop, procure, maintain and use information and communications technology (ICT) that is accessible to people with disabilities.
The quick answer to what Section 508 Website Compliance entails is WCAG 2.0 AA conformance.
To get a better idea of the legal requirements, let’s look at more details pertaining to ICT, WCAG, and what is covered under 508.
ICT includes a range of technology including:
- Smart phones and mobile devices
- Internet and Intranet websites
- Remote access websites and tools
- PDF documents
- Online training
- Webinars and teleconferencing
- Technical support call centers
- Tablets, laptop and desktop computers
- Software and operating systems
- Copiers and printers
But for the purposes of this guide, we will focus on what is required of the federal government when it comes to websites under Section 508.
Section 508 Refresh Requires WCAG 2.0 AA
In 2017, there was a refresh to Section 508 published by the Access Board and that refresh incorporated WCAG 2.0 AA as the standard for web accessibility for Section 508-covered ICT, all covered Web and non-Web content and software.
WCAG 2.0 AA was incorporated to further industry alignment.
Here are some examples of what is covered under the refresh:
- word processing documents
- Project management software
These ICT are required, with a few specific exceptions, to conform to WCAG 2.0 AA (AA includes A).
WCAG 2.0 AA
WCAG stands for the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines which is a set of standards authored by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) under the W3C.
There are currently three versions of WCAG (1.0, 2.0, 2.1) and three conformance levels (A, AA, AAA).
Section 508 compliance requires conformance with WCAG 2.0 AA.
There are 38 success criteria (i.e. WCAG bullet points / requirements) under 2.0 AA.
If you would like to get my WCAG 2.0 AA and 2.1 AA guides where I breakdown each success criterion into easy to understand instructions, you can subscribe to Accessible.org and I’ll send you them for free.
You can also read my quick WCAG 2.0 AA checklist.
There are a handful of reputable companies that offer Section 508 compliance services for digital accessibility including websites and apps.
Services offered typically include providing documentation and VPATs / ACRs, manual accessibility audits, user testing, remediation and/or tech support, and legal support.