Section 508

On January 9, 2017 the U.S. Access Board released a final rule that updates accessibility requirements for information and communication technology (ICT) in the federal sector covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. The rule also refreshes guidelines for telecommunications equipment subject to Section 255 of the Communications Act.

"This update is essential to ensure that the Board's Section 508 standards and the Communications Act guidelines keep pace with the ever-changing technologies covered and continue to meet the access needs of people with disabilities," states Sachin Pavithran, Chair of the Board's ICT ad hoc committee. "The Access Board is grateful for the input it received from the public and stakeholders throughout the rulemaking process which greatly enhanced the final product."

The 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. In fact, the rule references Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements in WCAG 2.0 and applies them not only to websites, but also to electronic documents and software.

"Throughout this process," according to Access Board Executive Director David M. Capozzi, "the Board worked very hard to ensure consistency with other consensus guidelines and international standards to promote global harmonization and facilitate compliance." He noted that, "ICT requirements that are closely aligned remove ambiguity, increase marketplace competition, and lead to better accessibility features and outcomes."

The updated requirements specify the technologies covered and provide both performance-based and technical requirements for hardware, software, and support documentation and services. Access is addressed for all types of disabilities, including those pertaining to vision, hearing, color perception, speech, cognition, manual dexterity, and reach. The rule, which will be published later this month in the Federal Register, restructures provisions so that they are categorized by functionality instead of by product type due to the increasingly multi-functional capabilities of ICT products. Revisions are also made to improve ICT usability, including interoperability with assistive technologies, and to clarify the types of ICT covered, such as electronic documents.

The Board released a proposed version of the rule for public comment in February 2015 and, before that, earlier drafts of the rule. The rule is based on recommendations from an advisory panel the Board chartered, the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee which included representatives from industry, disability groups, government agencies, foreign countries, and other stakeholders.

The rule will take effect in one year. The Section 508 standards, which are incorporated into the federal government's procurement regulations, apply to ICT procured, developed, maintained, or used by federal agencies. The Communications Act guidelines cover telephones, cell phones, pagers, computers with modems, switching equipment and other telecommunications equipment.

The Board will conduct a webinar on the rule on February 2.

For further information, visit the Board's website or contact Timothy Creagan at (202) 272-0016 (v), (202) 272-0074 (TTY), or 508@access-board.gov.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is hosting a live Twitter chat on Thursday, April 2nd from 1:00 – 2:00 pm (EDT). The chat will be an opportunity for those concerned to discuss the impact of technology on federal workers who have disabilities.

Everyone is encourage to participate including federal employees and the public. Questions and comments regarding common technological issues that people with disabilities experience in the federal workforce as they relate to section 508, can be submitted using hashtag #5084FEDs.

EEOC will conduct the chat using the Office of Federal Operation (OFO) official Twitter handle @EEOC_OFO. Chai Feldblum, EEOC Commissioner, will use her personal handle @chaifeldblum.

The US Access Board has made an announcement regarding the Section 508 refresh.  The draft rule will now be sent to the Federal Register for publication.  After that, there will be a 90-day public comment period.

In the draft rule (255 Chapter 2: Scoping Requirements), Electronic Content, Platforms and Applications will need to comply with WCAG 2.0 Level A and AA. You can read more about the Section 508 refresh at the Access Board website.

There will be two public hearings:

  1. March 5, 2015 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (PT)
    Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel
    One Market Place
    Mission Beach A & B (3rd floor)
    San Diego, CA 92101
    Note: This hearing will be held in conjunction with the CSUN Conference but persons wishing only to testify need not register for the conference.
  2. March 11, 2015 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (ET)
    U.S. Access Board Conference Room
    1331 F Street, NW
    Suite 800
    Washington, DC 20004

Witnesses can testify in person at the hearing in San Diego.  Witnesses can testify in person or by telephone at the hearing in Washington, DC.  Copies of the rule will not be available at the hearings.  Call-in information and a communication access real-time translation (CART) web streaming link for the Washington, DC hearing will be posted before the hearing.

For information on pre-registering to testify, please contact Kathy Johnson at (202) 272–0041, (202) 272-0082(TTY), or johnson@access-board.gov.

If you have questions about the rule once it is made public, please contact Tim Creagan at (202) 272-0016, (202) 272-0074(TTY), or 508@access-board.gov.

There will be a free webinar about the proposed rule on Tuesday, March 31 from 1:00 pm - 2:30pm (ET); sign up for the webinar.

At the National Federation of the Blind National Convention on July 1-6 Vital Source Technologies, an Ingram Content Group’s leading e-textbook solutions, showcased new features to its already comprehensive accessibility support for the VitalSource Bookshelf platform.

Vital Source Technologies works to continually support industry standards for accessibility through conformance testing on all bookshelf platforms.  They test offline on Windows and Macs, online on Windows and Macs using standard browsers (IE, Firefox, Safari), and on mobile devices for iOS and Android. All Bookshelf platforms are evaluated using screen readers such as JAWS and NVDA for Windows, VoiceOver for Mac and IOS, and TalkBack for Android.

Vital Source collaborates with accessibility consultants, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB, American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) to insure the platform is tested in conformance with section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.

In addition to the client updates being released, Vital Source will provide an updated and independently-reviewed Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT) for each of the platforms. The Android, iOS, Browser, Macintosh and Windows VPAT’s are available for download.

Read more on VPAT’s and Accessibility Certification.

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I’ve spent more than twenty years developing applications and websites.  That’s a lot of time spent sitting in a cubicle, head down, coding, and racing toward deadlines to make the business stakeholders happy.  It took me twenty years to realize I should have kept my head up and taken time to understand my customers better. 

On May 15, 2014 awareness of digital accessibility, which includes web, software, mobile applications and devises, will reach new heights. Global Accessibility Awareness Day is a community-driven effort with the goal of dedicating one day to raising awareness for digital accessibility to a broad audience. The hope is that awareness increases amongst designers, developers and other people involved in information communication technology (ICT).

Businesses and individuals who are looking for guidelines to help achieve accessibility for website or digital products can refer to the Section 508 or WCAG 2.0 guidelines. It may also be helpful to seek guidance from an accessibility consultant.   

The United States Access Board is updating its Section 508 Standards and Telecommunication Act Accessibility Guidelines together. The Section 508 Standards are issued under the Rehabilitation Act and apply to electronic and information technology procured by the federal government. This includes Computer hardware and software, websites and multimedia (video, phone systems, and copiers.) The Telecommunications Act guidelines were issued under Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act and addresses access to telecom products and services and apply to manufactures of telecom equipment. The purpose of updating both together is to ensure consistency of coverage of telecommunications technologies and products.

Kathy Wahlbin, CEO and Founder of Interactive Accessibility and invited expert for the W3C WCAG 2.0 Working Group, Mobile Accessibility Task Force and WCAG 2.0 Evaluation Methodology Task Force, is presenting tonight at PixelMEDIA in Portsmouth New Hampshire. Kathy will discuss how the accessibility is changing and impacting today’s businesses. In addition, she will look at some of the coding and testing techniques that help bring websites and other digital content into compliance with WCAG 2.0 and Section 508.

Register for the event right away.

Did you know that blind people can surf the Internet and deaf people can enjoy videos? Have you wondered how people with disabilities use mobile devices? Assistive technology (AT) empowers people with disabilities, yet it presents challenges for producers of online content.

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