Section 508 Rule Updates

The United States Access Board has just released details on how they plan on updating Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as well as guidelines for Section 255 of the Communications Act of 1934. These updates will have major impacts to people providing technology and telecommunication solutions to government entities and their subcontractors. They are open to public comment for the next 90 days.

Be sure to go over and read the updates for yourself, but here is a high level summary of what is changing:

  • Adoption of W3C’s WCAG 2.0 standards with goals of meeting AA success criteria (applies to web as well as offline documents & software)
  • Real-time text functionality to supplement voice communication (letter by letter transmission – could impact things like Google Hangouts & Skype)

The goal is to update the rules to accommodate changes since the rules were last updated and how fast the technology is changing.

This is a great set of changes being proposed as it will align the U.S. government needs with that of the European Commission, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Japan. Additionally, they will be following an established set of standards and not hodge podge of rules that have hampered the industry.

This is not the ADA

Unfortunately we are still waiting for the American with Disabilities Act to be updated. These proposed changes only really affect government agencies and the tools they create and use. However, keep in mind that the federal court systems have been ruling in favor of plaintiffs on lack of accessible features on websites recently. H&R Block, Netflix, Target, Harvard & M.I.T. have all faced recent lawsuits. With Section 508 finally getting updated, I think this will only increase.

The best advice I can provide is that you should start refactoring your site to make WCAG 2.0 AA compliant now.