There are a lot of terms used when talking about Section 508, and they are not always used consistently. Federal agencies are required to comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. 794 d). This Act states that Agencies must ensure that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) that they “develop, procure, maintain or use” allows for comparable access by both Federal employees and members of the public with disabilities seeking information or services from the Federal government. Below is a description of the appropriate use of the terms compliance and conformance.
Section 508 Compliance:
Compliance is whether or not a Federal agency has met the legal requirements of Section 508. Section 508 compliance means that when a Federal agency decides to procure EIT product or services, they must ensure that Section 508 requirements are included in their requirements document so that a vendor knows exactly what Section 508 criteria is required to bid on a contract. Ultimately Agencies have to make decisions to buy products that best meet their requirements, one of which is Section 508.
Section 508 Conformance:
The Section 508 Standards (36 CFR Part 1194) developed by the Access Board apply to all EIT products and services procured by the Federal government. This includes but is not limited to; computer hardware and software, websites, telecommunications, video and multimedia, and self-contained closed products. Products shall conform to the Section 508 standards in order for vendors to sell their EIT products and services to the Federal government. Conformance means providing EIT that meets the applicable parts of the Section 508 standards. In summary:
- Federal agencies must comply with the Section 508 law.
- Vendor’s products and services shall conform to Section 508 standards.