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Understanding Section 508 – Things You Need to Know

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The United States has been strict with laws,and the law of the country has always stood up for all its citizens. Section 508 of the United States Government Rehabilitation Act of 1973, is made to bound agencies and businesses to provide an equivalent life and rights to individuals with a disability, along with normal people. In the article, we will learn about Section 508, its compliance and its effects.

What is Section 508?

Section 508 is an amendment in the Rehabilitation act 1973, which says that all the federal agencies in electronic and information technology field, must develop and maintain their products, services,and documents that are accessible to the individuals with a disability. This amendment also includes the contractors and third-party agencies who are procuring their services to federal agencies or maintaining any services on their behalf.

Revisions of Section 508

There have been many revisions of Section 508 in the past2 decades. Let us take a look in brief:
1986 – Provided non-binding guidelines and standards to be followed for compliance in regards to Electronic and IT

1998 – Provided bounding guidelines, standards,and enforcement laws to be followed for the same.

2017 – Provides procedure, reporting,and checklists to bind to guidelines, standards and enforcement laws to be followed for the same.

Applicability of Section 508

There has been a common misconception around the public and businesses about its applicability that it is applicable to all the businesses operating in the United States. But Section 508 compliance is applicable only to federal agencies, third parties working with federal agencies. It doesn’t apply to private sector companies and the agencies that receive federal funds.

Compliance guidelines

As section 508 states that it is applicable to federal agencies to develop, maintain and regulate information or electronic technology, be accessible to individuals with a disability. But there are some deviations allowed. If the agency finds it as a burden to follow, they must at least ensure that they provide all the information needed by such individuals in any other format/method.

They must evaluate their current technology to find out the compliance, and present the Evaluation report to Attorney General. The same report is submitted then to the President along with Attorney’s report. Section 508 is going to be included in the Federal acquisition regulation (FAR) which will make it a part of the process of procurement of technology, to comply with.

Power of a common man

Any individual with a disability, who at any point of time, feels that they are not getting the access to any electronic product or information technology, through any federal agency, they can file a complaint against the agency or file a civil action against the agency. This will compel the agencies to stick to the law and make everything accessible to them

Options for Agencies

There are multiple options for agencies to ensure they comply with Section 508, but the best option for the agency is to get in touch with the accessibility experts and consultants, who can analyze the loopholes and strategize an action plan for all the loopholes.

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