The federal government’s new Section 508 standards took effect Thursday, requiring compliance from agencies, and any state or locality that accepts federal funding, to ensure their digital services are accessible to people with physical, sensory or cognitive disabilities.
As part of the Federal Acquisition Regulation, the guidelines are aimed at helping seeing- and hearing-impaired users access information on government websites, apps and other digital media. The revised rules, which stem from a 2001 amendment of the Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973, include fewer compliance exemptions for hardware and software. This means a broader range of technologies and more states and localities are likely to be affected by the requirements.
The updates also include additional interoperability requirements for assistive technologies like braille displays and screen magnification software. In addition, the change asks organizations to use of the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, a resource with the latest technical and web design recommendations.
With more than $500 billion in federal spending going to companies, states and local jurisdictions, Beth Franssen, an accessibility expert at the software company Nexient, talked with sister site StateScoop about how the changes may take some by surprise if they are not prepared. Yet the updates do include some exceptions for cases where compliance causes an “undue burden” financially or for certain legacy systems.
Read more about the updates over on StateScoop.