Georgia Tech Research Institute
 

How do I determine if my product qualifies as electronic and information technology (E&IT) under Section 508?

First, recognize that Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in 1998, applies to federal agencies only, though state laws and school policies may individually adopt the standards of Section 508.

Second, federal agencies should not assume that all or none of their technology is covered by Section 508; individual products must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Some products may qualify as E&IT, but other models may include electronic or IT components, but not fit the definition of E&IT for coverage under Section 508. The product may be assessed in terms of its inputs, outputs, controls, user installed software, and other applicable features of the product. Individuals may find formal definitions of E&IT and information technology (in Subpart A), in paragraph 1194.4 of Section 508.

Note: Agencies are encouraged to procure accessible products or design their products for maximum accessibility and usability regardless of whether a product is considered to be covered under Section 508.

If you want to sell your product to the federal government (or if you are a federal agency developing your own product) and you answer Yes to any of the following questions, your product most likely is subject to the Section 508 standards:

  1. Is my product a software application or operating system?
  2. Is my product a website?
  3. Is my product a desktop or portable computer?
  4. Is my product a video or multimedia product?
  5. Is my product a telecommunications product?
  6. Is my product a self-contained, closed product? These are generally products with embedded software to which assistive technology cannot be easily attached, e.g., copiers, fax machines, printers, and calculators.

Click the links above for each of the product categories of interest to see the applicable Section 508 technical standards. Also, note that Section 508 applies to products that are "used" and "maintained," not only those that are "procured" and "developed."

Once you determine that your product is E&IT covered by the Section 508 standards, you then need to determine which specific provisions apply to that product. The Buy Accessible Wizard is a free tool developed under a federal contract to assist in this process. See www.buyaccessible.gov.

In addition to the specific design provisions (Subpart B), remember that the functional performance provisions (Subpart C) can be used to assist in the product evaluation.

The information, documentation and support standards (Subpart D) are federal agency accommodation issues. At the time of product procurement, agencies may request help from vendors with meeting the federal agency's documentation needs. However, documentation in alternative formats is not necessary for a "procurement" to be Section 508-compliant. It is needed only for an "agency" to be Section 508-compliant. A best practice would be to provide the documentation in an electronic format that can then be converted to suit the specific needs of individuals.