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FAR Updated to Add Revised Section 508 Standards for Information and Communication Technology

On January 18, 2017, the U.S. Access Board issued a final rule (the “Revised 508 Standards”) that updated accessibility requirements covered by Section 508 for Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The final rule went into effect on January 18, 2018.

The Access Board rule updated and reorganized the Section 508 Standards (as well as the Section 255 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, including standards issued by the European Commission and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0), a globally recognized voluntary consensus standard for digital content.

On August 11, 2021, the FAR Council (the Administrator for Federal Procurement Policy and Department of Defense (DOD), General Services Administration (GSA), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)) published a final rule amending the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to incorporate these revisions and updates to ICT accessibility standards.

The full text and formal notice of the final rule is available at: Federal Acquisition Regulation: Section 508-Based Standards in Information and Communication Technology (federalregister.gov/d/2021-16363). The updates went into effect on September 10, 2021.

Understanding the Update

This FAR final rule is consistent with the Revised 508 Standards. Noticeable differences between this update, the previous version of the FAR, and the Revised 508 Standards include:

  • The Revised 508 Standards include six “General Exceptions” (see E202). The FAR incorporates these same six exclusions, but variously uses the terms “exception” or “exemption”.
  • This revision to the FAR explicitly requires documentation for all exceptions or exemptions.
  • Previously, this section of the FAR (39.204) included an exception for micro-purchases. A micro-purchase exception did not appear in the Original 508 Standards, does not appear in the Revised 508 Standards, and ended in April 2005. There is not a micro-purchase exception in this update to the FAR.

For a detailed comparison of the previous and updated versions, visit Tabular Comparison of the Previous FAR text against the 2021 Update.

Reviewed/Updated: November 2021