Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. § 794 (d))
In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities. The law (29 U.S.C. § 794 (d)) applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Under Section 508, agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to access available to others. The United States Access Board discusses the Section 508 law and its responsibility for developing accessibility standards for EIT to incorporate into regulations that govern Federal procurement practices.
Other Related Laws
It is important to understand Section 508 in the context of other laws related to federal disability policy. In addition to Section 508, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 has several other sections:
- Sections 501 and 505: prohibits federal employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities.
- Section 503: prohibits employment discrimination based on disability by federal contractors or subcontractors.
- Section 504: prohibits federal agencies, programs, or activities from discriminating and requires reasonable accommodation for qualified individuals with disabilities.
Additional related laws include:
- Section 255 of the Communications Act: requires telecommunications products and services to be accessible to people with disabilities.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): the first major legislative effort to secure an equal playing field for individuals with disabilities.
- Assistive Technology Act of 1998: establishes a grant program to provide Federal funds to support State programs that address the assistive technology needs of individuals with disabilities.
- Help America Vote Act of 2002: mandates improvements to voting systems and voter access for the nation's voting process.
- 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010: requires advanced communications services and products to be accessible by people with disabilities.
Section 508 Related Policies
- OMB Memos: memoranda to Chief Acquisition Officers and Chief Information Officers on agency duties and the importance of Section 508.
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): additional guidance on laws related to the provision of reasonable accommodations.
- State Policy: many states have also passed legislation requiring electronic and information technology accessibility.
- International Harmonization: other government-supported efforts around the world working on a "standards approach" to ensuring ICT accessibility.