The amendment to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was published by the Access Board, an independent Federal agency devoted to accessibility for people with disabilities, on December 22, 2000. Section 508 is an attempt to make sure that wherever practical, disabled Federal employees are not disadvantaged in their jobs because of a mismatch between the access they have to electronic and information technology, and the access that they need to do their job effectively. Similarly, no member of the public shall be excluded from finding the information that they need from Federal departments and agencies because of a disability.
Section 508 applies to U.S. Federal departments and agencies when they develop, buy, lease, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Federal departments and agencies must ensure equal access to, and use of, electronic and information technology for Federal employees with disabilities and members of the public seeking information or services from their agency. The access must be comparable to that for people who do not have disabilities, unless such a requirement would cause an undue burden.
The need to comply with section 508 is not restricted to Federal departments and agencies. The Assistive Technology Act orders the compliance of States that receive assistance from the States Grants program (including sub-recipients).
Section 508 compliance is incorporated into the Federal Acquisitions Regulations (FAR). These requirements have been in place since June 25 2001. Section 508 carries the simple sanction that unless manufacturers and service providers collaborate with Federal departments and agencies to meet the relevant standards, they will not be able to sell their products to the Federal Government.
Section 508 itemizes three different categories of standards:
- Functional performance
- Information, documentation and support
Further information about these standards is available from the following links: