Section 508 law is a requirement for federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. Section 508 was originally added as an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in 1986.
The original section 508 dealt with electronic and information technologies, in recognition of the growth of this field.
The new version of Section 508 also establishes a complaint procedure and reporting requirements, which further strengthen the law.
Section 508 applies to Federal departments and agencies. It requires that when Federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, they must ensure that it is accessible to people with disabilities, unless it would pose an undue burden to do so. Federal employees and members of the public who have disabilities must have access to and use of information and services that is comparable to the access and use available to non-disabled Federal employees and members of the public.
Six months after the Access Board published the final standards, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council is required to revise the Federal Acquisition Regulation and each Federal department or agency shall revise the Federal procurement policies and directives under their control to incorporate the standards. The Access Board will periodically review and update the standards as necessary.
Enforcement of Section 508
Because the Section 508 standards will be incorporated into the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), agencies` procurement of accessible technology will be subject to the same stringent compliance and enforcement mechanisms as other parts of the FAR.
There is an administrative complaint process which becomes effective six months after the Board issued its final standards. It enables any individual with a disability to file a complaint alleging that a Federal department or agency has not complied with the accessible technology standards in a procurement made after that date. The complaint process is the same as that used for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, for complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of disability in Federally-conducted programs or activities. It provides injunctive relief and attorney`s fees to the prevailing party, but does not include compensatory or punitive damages.
Individuals may also file a civil action against an agency.
Electronic and information technology
That Act defines "information technology" to include "any equipment or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment, that is used in the automatic acquisition, storage, manipulation, management, movement, control, display, switching, interchange, transmission, or reception of data or information." It includes computer hardware, software, networks, and peripherals as well as many electronic and communications devices commonly used in offices.
Federal agencies which provide information to the public or to their employees through Web sites must ensure that such sites are available to all persons with internet or intranet access, including persons with disabilities.
Advantages to comply with Section 508
In addition to comply with the standard and avoid lawsuits, there are several advantages to make your website accessible:
Help people with disabilities to access your website ( more than 15% !! )
Improve your SEO (Search engine optimization) to get more traffic to your website.
Google and other search engines give priority to accessible websites to appear in the first pages, in addition to more keywords because of more information such as alt text for images
Build Positive Publicity - Building an accessible website can also help your reputation!