History - Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. § 794 (d))
In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities. The law (29 U.S.C. § 794 (d)) applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Under Section 508, agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others.
The United States Access Board is responsible for developing ICT accessibility standards to incorporate into regulations that govern Federal procurement practices. On January 18, 2017, the Access Board issued a final rule that updated accessibility requirements covered by Section 508, and refreshed guidelines for telecommunications equipment subject to Section 255 of the Communications Act. The final rule went into effect on January 18, 2018.
The rule jointly updated and reorganized the Section 508 Standards and Section 255 Guidelines in response to market trends and innovations in technology. The refresh also harmonized these requirements with other guidelines and standards both in the U.S. and abroad, including standards issued by the European Commission, and with the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), a globally recognized voluntary consensus standard for web content and information and communication technology (ICT).
Revised 508 Standards
- Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Final Standards and Guidelines - Read the Revised 508 Standards (final rule)
- Overview of the Final Rule - High-level overview
- Implementation guidance - Tools and guidance to help your agency comply with the Revised 508 Standards
It is important to understand Section 508 in the context of other laws related to federal disability policy. In addition to Section 508, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 has several other sections:
- Sections 501 and 505- Prohibits federal employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities
- Section 503 - Prohibits employment discrimination based on disability by federal contractors or subcontractors
- Section 504 - Prohibits federal agencies, programs, or activities from discriminating and requires reasonable accommodation for qualified individuals with disabilities.
Additional related laws include:
- Section 255 of the Communications Act - Requires telecommunications products and services to be accessible to people with disabilities
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) - The first major legislative effort to secure an equal playing field for individuals with disabilities
- Assistive Technology Act of 1998 - Establishes a grant program to provide Federal funds to support State programs that address the assistive technology needs of individuals with disabilities
- Help America Vote Act of 2002 - Mandates improvements to voting systems and voter access for the nation's voting process
- 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 - Requires advanced communications services and products to be accessible by people with disabilities.
- Strategic Plan for Improving Management of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act - Outlines additional agency responsibility to increase transparency, strengthen accountability, and improve collaboration for Section 508 implementation.
- Office of Federal Procurement Policy 508 Compliance
- 2011 Notes from Daniel I. Gordon, Federal Procurement Policy Administrator
- 2010 OMB Memorandum for the Chief Acquisition Officers and Chief Information Officers
- 2007 OMB Memorandum for the Chief Acquisition Officers and Chief Information Officers
- 2005 OMB Memorandum for the Chief Acquisition Officers and Chief Information Officers
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
- EEOC Policy Guidance On Executive Order 13164: Establishing Procedures To Facilitate The Provision Of Reasonable Accommodation - October 2000
- EEOC Procedures for Providing Reasonable Accommodation for Individuals With Disabilities - February 2001
State and International
- State Policy - States’ legislation requiring electronic and information technology accessibility
- International Harmonization - Other government-supported efforts around the world working on a "standards approach" to ensuring ICT accessibility.