Thursday, December 03, 2009

Section 508 Tutorial

If you are doing web pages and want to ensure accessibility this tutorial is a great place to start.

... Section 508 does not directly apply to private sector web sites or to public sites which are not U.S. Federal agency sites. In fact it doesn't even apply to the Congress or to the Judiciary. It also does not (generally) apply to agencies or establishments using Federal funds. So if it does not apply to all these institutions, what's the purpose? Those who crafted the law noted that the combined purchasing power of Federal agencies is tremendous. They believed that if the Federal agencies required accessible IT, then companies would respond by (1) offering accessible IT to the government and (2) rather than have two sets of products, they would offer accessible IT for everybody. At IBM in the late 90's, for example, the decision was to build accessibility into the entire development process - company wide. It just didn't make sense to have two sets of products.

But there is more to the 508 story. Section 508 provides accessibility standards for all information technology. Our focus here is web accessibility. But 508 covers all information technology and it is the only standard that does so. Computer software, hardware, and documentation are all covered by Section 508. When states wanted to require accessible information technology, they turned to the Section 508 Accessibility Standards to define "accessibility". Check out the ITTATC web site for a survey of state requirements for accessibility, most of which refer to Section 508.
For more on this topic, check out the tutorial here