Section 508 Compliance

What is Section 508 Compliance?

Section 508 requires that when Federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, Federal employees with disabilities have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access and use by Federal employees who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency. Section 508 also requires that individuals with disabilities, who are members of the public seeking information or services from a Federal agency, have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that provided to the public who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency.

On January 18, 2017, the Access Board published a final rule that jointly updates requirements for information and communication technology (ICT) covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Communication Act. The Section 508 Standards apply to electronic and information technology procured by the federal government, including computer hardware and software, websites, multimedia such as video, phone systems, etc. The Section 255 Guidelines address access to telecommunications products and services and apply to manufacturers of telecommunication equipment.

The final rule jointly updates and reorganizes the Section 508 standards and Section 255 guidelines in response to market trends and innovations, such as the convergence of technologies. The refresh also harmonizes these requirements with other guidelines and standards both in the U.S. and abroad, including standards issued by the European Commission and with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a globally recognized voluntary consensus standard for web content and ICT.

Note: Section 508 compliance is a requirement for government contractors, colleges and universities, and state agencies who receive federal funds either by contract or federal grant.

Section 508 Contract Support

Criterion provides Section 508 WCAG contract support designed to streamline your contract requirements. Since 2001, Criterion’s audit findings and VPATs have been highly regarded by federal and state government agencies due to the thoroughness of our testing processes.  Also, our VPATs are written to address specific federal agency requirements which can vary between agencies.  If you need to satisfy a Section 508 contractual requirement, let us apply our 20 years of experience to simplify your Section 508 roadmap!

"Real World" Web Accessibility Auditing

At Criterion, we believe the best way to ensure your website or application is truly Section 508 and ADA web compliant is to ask accessibility experts with disabilities!  “Real World” web accessibility auditing requires input from WCAG experts with disabilities because, in the world of Section 508 and ADA web compliance, their disability is a skill set people without disabilities can’t replicate!

Caution:

Web Accessibility Scanning Tools

Automated web accessibility scanning tools and artificial intelligence (AI) use algorithms to inspect the HTML markup of websites. Unfortunately, these automated tools capture less than 20% of all WCAG failures. Remember, the majority of WCAG guidelines require testing with assistive technologies (screen readers, voice recognition, keyboard only navigation, etc.) to determine compliance.

Website Accessibility Plugins & Website Accessibility Overlays

The only way to bring a website into Section 508, ADA, or WCAG compliance is to repair all relevant HTML markup and source code errors. Companies that install “website accessibility plugins” or “website accessibility overlays on their websites will remain inaccessible to people with disabilities and at continued risk for litigation under ADA Title III.

Companies are responsible for ensuring their website supports widely used professional-grade assistive technologies, not forcing less robust accessibility features on customers with disabilities via the use of accessibility plugins or accessibility overlays.

Note: In 2020, over 100 federal lawsuits were filed under ADA Title III against companies that installed website accessibility plugins and/or website accessibility overlays on their websites.

Compliance Targets

Section 508 v2

Section 508 v2, is the most current version of the U.S. Section 508 standards. Although most Section 508 v2 requirements are based on WCAG 2.0 A & AA guidelines, Section 508 compliance requires ICT to support several additional requirements.

Section 508 compliance requires successfully documenting the ICT’s support of all applicable guidelines utilizing a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template or VPAT. Today, WCAG 2.0 A & AA is considered the minimum standard for Section 508 compliance.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are technical guidelines referenced when auditing ADA web accessibility. WCAG 2.1 A & AA is the current standard, but under Section 508 v2 the minimum requirement is WCAG. 2.0 A & AA.

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Online Training Courses Available!

Criterion’s web accessibility training courses are written by Criterion’s subject-matter experts and designed to provide the knowledge required to create and maintain WCAG compliant websites, applications, and documents.

Note: Criterion’s online training courses are only available as part of our Section 508 & ADA web compliance audit services.

  • Course #1:  “Introduction – Understanding Web Accessibility”
  • Course #2:  “Advanced – WCAG Testing & Repair Techniques”
  • Course #3:  “Advanced – Creating Accessible Word & PDF Documents”
  • Course #4: “Advanced – Mobile WCAG Testing & Repair Techniques”

The Business of Web Accessibility

From a technical perspective, achieving immediate Section 508 and ADA web compliance is straightforward process that requires a corporate mandate, IT resources, and budget. However, Criterion’s premium web accessibility package also assists clients with long-term WCAG compliance by introducing best practices in the following areas:

Accessibility Tools Selection

Govt. Contract Support & VPATs

Vendor Management Support

WCAG Legal Support

Advanced WCAG Training

Marketing Accessibility

Corporate Communications

Web Accessibility Statements

Requirements for Criterion’s WCAG 2.1 Seal of Compliance

  • Purchase Criterion’s Premium ADA Web Compliance Package
  • Client’s dev team must successfully complete Criterion’s advanced online training courses
  • Client must repair all WCAG guideline failures identified by Criterion’s audit team
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