Accessibility through Section 508: Compliance and Benefits

[Approximate Reading Time : 4 mins]


Section 508 is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of the US government that mandated accessibility in the federal government. Section 508 was included in the act in 1986, but it was ineffective. It was revised and enforced again in 1998. The section prohibited the discrimination of people with disabilities (PwD) in its programs, aid, and employment and prioritized the accessibility of information and communication technologies. It was a major move by the US government that brought awareness about the importance of accessibility and changed how it was perceived.

Section 508 applied accessibility in every purchase the federal government made. The electronic and information technologies they developed, procured, maintained, or used was made accessible to PwD.

Refresh of 2017

Section 508 got a single update after 20 years, in 2017, which went into effect in 2018. It refreshed the scope of the guidelines that previously covered only websites. The refresh made the standards set by Section 508 apply to all documents, websites, software, applications, and hardware interfaces. It also synchronized the standards with that of W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and those of the European Commission. The federal government set an example for other industries in providing an inclusive experience for PwD.


The major features stressed the following points to ensure accessibility:

  • Closed-captioning and subtitles: Provide the content of audio and video files in text to help people with hearing impairments.
  • Screen reader: Provide access to screen readers that convert on-screen text to synthesized speech.
  • Keyboard accessibility: Provide prominent visual indicators and on-screen focus for keyboard-only navigation. Allow the skipping of repetitive navigation links.
  • Alternative image text: Provide readable descriptions for images and visuals that convey the same information.
  • Zoom in: Ensure zoom functionality is not disabled. Provide options to zoom to 200 percent.
  • Color: Do not use only color to convey or differentiate information. Ensure sufficient contrast between text and background. Avoid screen flickers and bright colors.
  • Time-outs– Give enough time for web pages with time-outs with indicators and warnings.
  • Forms: Allow assistive technology to access, complete, and submit online forms. Provide directions and cues to walk through the process.

Benefits of Section 508

Even though compliance is mandatory only for federal organizations, businesses that associate with or receive funds from such organizations have to meet these standards to avoid discrepancies. When purchase options are narrowed down, the federal agency is legally required to select the product with the most accessible features. Accessibility thus includes all and thereby increases market reach and cuts down on litigation fees and fines paid out in accessibility lawsuits. Besides, every firm must volunteer to provide a seamless experience for everyone equally.

Amnet is an accessibility vendor that can assure the compliance of your applications to Section 508, ADA, and WCAG 2.1. Be a step ahead of your competition in inclusivity:

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