Learn about Section 508 and Digital Accessibility
- Section 508 Overview
- What is Digital Accessibility?
- Section 508 Technical Resources
Section 508 Overview
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. § 794d), as amended by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-220) requires federal agencies to develop, procure, maintain, and use information and communications technology (ICT) that is accessible to people with disabilities - regardless of whether or not they work for the federal government. The US Access Board established the Section 508 standards that implement the law and provides the requirements for accessibility.
Section 508 requires federal agencies to make their ICT such as technology, online training, and websites accessible for everyone. This means that federal employees with disabilities are able to do their work on the accessible computers, phones, and equipment in their offices, take online training or access the agency’s internal website to locate needed information. Section 508 also means that a person with a disability applying for a job with the federal government or a person who is using an agency’s website to get information about a program, or completing an online form has access to the same accessible information and resources available to anyone.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is any equipment or system that is used to create, convert, duplicate, or access information and data. Examples of ICT include, but are not limited to:
- Telephones, smartphones, and mobile devices
- Televisions, DVD players, and videotaped productions
- Internet and Intranet websites
- Word, PowerPoint, Excel, or equivalent documents
- PDF documents
- Content on DVDs and CDs
- Online training
- Webinars and teleconferencing
- Technical support call centers
- Remote access websites and tools
- Tablet, laptop and desktop computers
- Software and operating systems
- User guides for software and tools
- Copiers, printers and fax machines
For more information about Section 508, please refer to one of the following sites:
- US Access Board ICT - Revised Section 508 Standards and Communications Act 255 Guidelines
What is Digital Accessibility?
Digital accessibility is the result of applying section 508 requirements and capabilities to documents, presentations, websites, and any form of media or information and communications technology (ICT). When you create electronic documents that can be read by a screen reader or a user can leverage their assistive technology to access the information, you have created digitally accessible content.
Digital accessibility is critical for individuals with disabilities to access the same information as those individuals without disabilities. It doesn’t matter if an individual has low vision, color blindness, or cognitive or motor skill disabilities, the EPA is required to provide the same access to the information.
Section 508 Technical Resources
The Communications Act Section 255 Guidelines covers telecommunications equipment and customer-premises equipment — such as telephones, cell phones, routers, set-top boxes, and computers with modems, interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol products, and software integral to the operation of telecommunications function of such equipment;
For more information about Section 508 and Section 255 guidelines, please refer to the following sites:
- Comparison Table of WCAG 2.0 to Original Section 508 Standards
- Mapping of WCAG 2.0 to Functional Performance Criteria
- W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, maintained by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
What's Covered for Software Applications and Operating Systems
Programs, procedures, rules, and related data and documentation that direct the use and operation of ICT and instruct it to perform a given task or function. Software includes, but is not limited to: applications, non-Web software, authoring tools, and platform software. ICT products that contain software as an integral part of their functionality. Where components of ICT are software and transmit information or have a user interface. Examples include digital copiers, scanners, smart card readers, printers, handhelds, fax machines, and telecommunications devices (wired, analog, and digital wireless and Internet). EXCEPTION: Software that is assistive technology and that supports the accessibility services of the platform. Read Section 508 Standards Chapter 5: Software for more information.
What's Covered for Web-based Intranet, Internet Information, and Electronic Content
Websites (the information content as well as any associated applications and plug-ins) and web-based applications. These requirements also apply to web-based interfaces to other ICT products or systems. Web-based applications are also any aspect of a Web page with which the user must interact in order to operate the given function of a Web page. For example, a streaming audio player delivers the content of a page to the user and, therefore, must be accessible to the user. The standards apply to federal websites but not to private sector websites unless a site is provided under contract to a federal agency, in which case only that website or portion covered by the contract must comply. They also apply to other digital content, including but not limited to, PDFs, Spreadsheets, Word documents, Presentations, Videos, and Training Modules. Read Section 508 E205 Electronic Content for more information.
The EPA is responsible for ensuring that all information and communications technology is accessible to individuals with disabilities. This involves designing websites, software, hardware, video, and multimedia, and telecommunications to meet Section 508 ICT standards, and incorporating other techniques to ensure accessibility. EPA is responsible for ensuring ICT is accessible, including holding vendors/contractors accountable for meeting these requirements.
What's Covered for Hardware
Any tangible device, equipment, or physical component of ICT, such as telephones, computers, multifunction copy machines, and keyboards. EXCEPTION: Hardware that is assistive technology. Read Section 508 Chapter 4: Hardware for more information.