Georgia Tech Research Institute

Why is Section 508 important?

The highlight to Section 508 is that it promotes accessibility over accommodation. Accessibility is proactive, whereas accommodation is reactive. For example under theory of accommodation (Sections 501 or 504 of the Rehabilitation Act), an agency might wait for hard of hearing people to assert their need for a telephone amplifier. However, under Section 508 accessibility requirements, a federal agency that purchases a new phone system must provide telephone amplification at each phone station. The barrier to hearing is removed in advance, so that future employees or guests with hearing loss will be able to use the phones without making special requests.

In addition, it is anticipated that accessible products, originally designed for sales to the federal market, will spill over into society as a whole. Some manufacturers have stated their intention to incorporate accessibility as one of several key features in their mainstream marketing. Manufacturers generally do not intend to have two classes of products: one that is inaccessible and the other that is accessible.

Finally, many private businesses are considering accessibility issues in their strategic planning. Even if they are not mandated to comply with 508 accessibility provisions now, they are concerned that such requirements may come into being in the future. Several companies, for example, have voluntarily made their web sites 508-conforming.

Excerpt from Emerging and Accessible Telecommunications, Information and Healthcare Technologies, Chapter 4, by David Baquis, p. 39 - 40.

Editors: Jack M. Winters, Charles J. Robinson, Richard C. Simpson, Gregg C. Vanderheiden
Copyright 2002 by RESNA Press.