What is Section 508?
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that when federal agencies develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology, they shall ensure that this technology allows:
- Federal employees with disabilities to have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that by federal employees who are not individuals with disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency, and
- Individuals with disabilities, who are members of the public seeking information or services from a federal agency, to have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that provided to the public who are not individuals with disabilities.
The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (or Access Board) was charged with developing technical and functional provisions to establish a minimum level of accessibility. These technology-specific provisions address:
- software applications and operating systems;
- web-based information or applications;
- telecommunications products;
- video or multi-media products;
- self contained, closed products such as information kiosks and transaction machines, and
- desktop and portable computers.
They also address compatibility with assistive technologies that some people with disabilities use for information and communication access.
Note: The scope of Section 508 is limited to the federal sector. It does not apply to the private sector, nor does it generally impose requirements on the recipients of federal funds.
The law establishes a complaint procedure and reporting requirements that further promote compliance. Section 508 provides that any individual with a disability may file a complaint alleging that a federal agency fails to comply with Section 508 when procuring EIT. Complaints shall be filed with the federal agency alleged to be in noncompliance. Under Section 508, individuals may also sue an agency in federal court to correct an alleged violation. Agencies are encouraged to develop voluntary alternative dispute resolution procedures to address complaints. People with disabilities also may have enforceable rights under Sections 501 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act for agency's development, maintenance, or use of EIT.
The General Services Administration (GSA) maintains a website devoted to Section 508 at http://www.section508.gov. In addition, the Access Board provides information about the law and its standards at http://www.access-board.gov/508.htm.