Overview of Section 508

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 requires that when federal departments and agencies procure, develop, maintain or use electronic and information technology (E&IT), subject to commercial availability, they must ensure that it complies with the Section 508 standards developed by the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board), unless doing so would pose an undue burden on the federal department or agency. The purpose of the law is to ensure that federal employees and members of the public with disabilities have access to the same information and data as employees and members of the public without disabilities.

Applicability. Section 508 applies to federal departments and agencies. Section 101(e)(3) of the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 (AT Act) requires that States receiving AT Act funds must also comply with Section 508 and the standards. Section 508 does not apply to public or private entities manufacturing and/or selling E&IT.

Impact. Individuals cannot bring civil actions against the private sector. However, companies who intend to sell or lease electronic and information technology to federal departments and agencies should be aware that Section 508 standards have been incorporated into the federal acquisition regulations (FAR). Companies may wish to review their E&IT to confirm compliance with the Section 508 standards.

While manufacturers are not required to modify their products, federal departments and agencies are required to give priority to procuring products which comply with the Section 508 standards. Additionally, depending on the terms of their contract, companies that misrepresent the degree to which the E&IT they sell or lease to the government meets the Section 508 standards may be liable to the government.

E&IT used by a company in the course of its business, but which will not be sold or leased to covered government entities, is not required to comply with Section 508 standards. For example, private web sites, not developed for a covered government entity, do not have to comply with Section 508 standards, but may be required to meet access requirements under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Scope. The technical standards of Subpart B of Section 508 provide criteria for various types of technologies:

Subparts C and D (Functional Performance Criteria (1194.31) and Information, Documentation, and Support (1194.41)) provide additional guidance for these technologies.

Last updated: 3/7/2014

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