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Information and Communication Technology (ICT) must be accessible to people with physical, sensory, and cognitive disabilities.

The U.S. Access Board standards and guidelines addresses access to ICT issued under Section 508 and Section 255 of the Communications Act.

These ICT Accessibility Standards include requirements that ensure compatibility with Assistive Technology (AT) used by people with disabilities.

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It requires Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities.

Section 508 requires access to ICT developed, procured, maintained, or used by federal agencies. 

Examples include computers, telecommunications equipment, multifunction office machines such as copiers that also operate as printers, software, websites, information kiosks and transaction machines, and electronic documents. 

Section 508 standards are a part of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), which requires access for both members of the public and federal employees to such technologies,

The U.S. Access Board is responsible for developing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) accessibility standards. The standards are incorporated into regulations that govern Federal procurement practices.

On January 18, 2017, the Access Board issued a final rule that updated accessibility requirements covered by Section 508. The Board also refreshed the guidelines for telecommunications equipment subject to Section 255 of the Communications Act. The final rule went into effect on January 18, 2018.

The rule updated and reorganized the Standards and Guidelines in response to market trends and innovations in technology.

The refresh also harmonized these requirements with other guidelines and standards both in the U.S. and abroad. This includes standards issued by the European Commission and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0).

Section 255

The Section 255 Guidelines address access to telecommunications products and services. It applies to manufacturers of customer-premises telecommunication equipment. Examples include: 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.

Related Laws

Section 501

The law prohibits employment discrimination against individuals with disabilities in the federal sector.

  • Interagency Committee on Employees who are Individuals with Disabilities; establishment; membership; co-chairmen; availability of other Committee resources; purpose and functions
  • Federal agencies; affirmative action program plans
  • State agencies; rehabilitated individuals, employment
  • Report to Congressional committees
  • Federal work experience without pay; non-Federal status
  • Federal agency cooperation; special consideration for positions on President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities
  • Standards used in determining violation of section 501

Section 505

It contains provisions governing remedies, procedures, rights and attorney’s fees. The rights are available to any employee or applicant for employment, who may be aggrieved by the final disposition of such complaint, or by the failure to take final action on such complaint.

Section 503

This law prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. It requires employers take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote, and retain these individuals.

Section 504

Section 504 protects qualified individuals from discrimination based on their disability. The Act forbids organizations and employers from excluding or denying individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to receive benefits and services. It defines the rights of individuals with disabilities to participate in, and have access to, program benefits and services.

Additional related laws

The Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.

It guarantees people with disabilities the right to enjoy employment opportunities, purchase goods and services, and participate in state and local government programs.

The Assistive Technology Act of 1998

It directs the Secretary of Education to provide continuity grants for individuals with disabilities. The grants are for States that have received less than ten years of funding under the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988.

Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA)

On October 8, 2010, President Obama signed the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) into law. The CVAA updates federal communications law to increase the access of persons with disabilities to modern communications.

Title I – Telecommunications Access

  • Requires advanced communications services and products to be accessible by people with disabilities.
  • Requires access to web browsers on mobile devices by people who are blind or visually impaired.
  • Creates industry recordkeeping obligations and requires changes to complaint and enforcement procedures. It tightens deadlines for the FCC to respond to consumer complaints and requires biennial reporting by the FCC to Congress.
  • Requires an FCC clearinghouse on accessible communications services and equipment.
  • Applies the hearing aid compatibility mandates to telephone-like equipment used with advanced communications services.
  • Updates the definition of telecommunications relay services (TRS) to include people who are deaf-blind.
  • Requires interconnected and non-interconnected VoIP service providers to contribute to the Interstate TRS Fund.
  • Directs the allocation of up to $10 million per year from the Interstate TRS Fund. This is for the distribution of specialized equipment to low-income people who are deaf-blind.
  • Authorizes FCC action to ensure reliable and interoperable access to next generation 9‑1‑1 services by people with disabilities.

Title II – Video Programming

  • Restores audio description rules promulgated by the FCC and expansion of those obligations over the next 10+ years.
  • Requires closed-caption video programming on TV to be distributed the same way on the Internet.
  • Establishes deadlines for the FCC to respond to requests for exemption from the closed captioning rules.
  • Requires video programming distributors, providers, and owners to convey emergency information accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.
  • Expands the requirement for video programming equipment accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.
  • Requires devices designed to record TV programs to pass through closed captions audio description, and emergency information.
  • Requires interconnection mechanisms to carry the information necessary to permit the display of closed captions.
  • Requires user controls for TVs and other video programming devices to be accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.

Does Section 508 Accessibility Standards Apply to My Website?

You may wonder if non-federal websites are required to comply with the Revised 508 Standards, the short answer is no. The bottom line is that your website is likely required to be accessible and compliant with accessibility laws.

Other Laws that Apply to Website Accessibility

Many non-federal websites are still required to be accessible, even when Section 508 doesn’t apply to them. These include Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, or state or local laws.

Section 504 prohibits discrimination based on disability by federal agencies and recipients of federal assistance. In this instance, accessibility applies to facilities, and communications such as websites.

So, if your organization receives federal funding or assistance, your website is required to be accessible. Consult your funding agencies to determine the requirement to make your websites and other communications accessible. When in doubt, design for accessibility.

What about the Americans with Disabilities Act?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also applies to website accessibility. The Department of Justice (DOJ) says the ADA requires any person, business, or organization to communicate effectively about their programs, services, and activities. This includes information provided through your website.

The DOJ is considering proposing WCAG 2.0 Level AA as the accessibility standard for websites and web content. The DOJ noted that WCAG 2.0 has become the internationally recognized benchmark for web accessibility. The Revised 508 Standards are based on WCAG 2.0.

However, a final rule specifying technical standards under the ADA has not been adopted yet. Federal agencies are subject to ADA, until the DOJ adopts specific technical requirements for web accessibility.

Final thoughts

Section 508 requires to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities. Federal agencies must design their websites to be accessible to meet the needs of all their citizens.

How codemantra helps State/Federal Agencies to achieve compliance?

codemantra’s AI-powered platform accessibilityInsight offers scalable modules for robust compliance reporting and validation. The platform validates across all document types as per WCAG 2.1 standards.

The platform helps to auto-remediate documents as per ADA, WCAG 2.1 Level AA, and Section 508 standards to achieve compliance at scale. It also allows users to perform interactive remediation as needed. 

codemantra has helped several California state agencies with their remediation strategies by providing a cost-effective solution.

Interested to know more?

Call us at 1 (800) 769-9715. Email: engage@codemantra.com for more information on how state agencies can achieve compliance as per state and federal accessibility laws.

Visit the link below to book a demo session:

https://codemantra.com/demo-schedule/?utm_source=organic&utm_medium=linkedin&utm_campaign=Demo schedule

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