GSA Government-wide Section 508 Accessibility Program

How to Answer Section 508 Facepalms: Section 508 and ADA

On August 17 we wrote a post, “508 Facepalms or Opportunities?” listing some of the questions and comments you may have heard about Section 508. So how do you answer those questions? This is the first of a series of blog posts to help you. If someone says: "Oh you mean Section 508 of the ADA.’, they are confusing which Act contains Section 508. While both the Rehabilitation Act (which includes Section 508) and the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) are intended to benefit those with disabilities, they have a different focus and intent. A response could be: It is actually Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in 1998 (29 U.S.C 794d). The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use information and communication 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 Americans with Disabilities Act is something else; it prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, State and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. Essentially one act deals with equal access while the other prohibits discrimination. Making this distinction can ensure that employees and managers have a sound basis for decisions or justifications they may need to make when it comes to access or discrimination.