GSA Government-wide Section 508 Accessibility Program

The Standard and the Law

After fielding questions about the difference between the standard and the law during almost every training and event, we asked the expert, David Baquis of the U.S Access Board, to describe the difference for us.

Q: Is the standard the Law?
A: No, the standard and law are two different things. Sometimes they are both referred to as “section 508” in conversation, which causes confusion. The law (or statute) is Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in 1998 (29 U.S.C. 794d). The law authorized the Access Board to write the standards, which it published in 2000. The standards are actually called the “Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards”. The law is fairly easy to read in a short amount of time. The standards are more detailed and take more time to read. The law and standards provide different types of information. For example, the law describes the complaint process, while the standards provide technical requirements for how to create an accessible website.

A follow up question we have heard relates to the “Refresh.”

Q: Is the law or standard being refreshed?
A: The Access Board has released a proposed rule updating the Section 508 Standards. The current Section 508 Standards remain in effect until this rulemaking becomes final.