What is Section 508 and why is it important?

In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to require Federal agencies and institutions that receive federal funding to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities. This is known as Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

On January 18, 2017 a final rule was issued that updates accessibility requirements for information and communication technology (ICT) in the federal sector covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. The rule jointly updates and reorganizes the Section 508 standards and applies them not only to websites, but also to electronic documents and software.

Section 508 generally requires Federal agencies to ensure that, when developing, procuring, maintaining, or using electronic and information technology (informational materials, video’s, websites, software, etc.) they ensure equal or comparable access to information and data for everyone. Comparable access is not required if it would impose an “undue burden” on the agency. If an agency invokes the undue burden exception, the statute requires the information and data to be provided to individuals with disabilities by an alternative means of access.

Embedding accessible, inclusive, universal design practices ensures people who have disabilities and/or use assistive technology devices (adaptive equipment that people with disabilities commonly use for information and communication access) have equal or comparable access to your materials.