Courtroom gavel.

Day 90: Section 508 and the ADA

I’ve had an accessibility-heavy week! However, it’s not without it’s rewards. I’ve found that sometimes on these journeys, ideas start to synchronize, articles relevant to what I’m questioning start to emerge in my Twitter feed, and people approach me about ideas or questions they have that spur me on further. In line with a talk I’m giving this weekend and the classes I’m taking through Deque, the U.S. laws that protect the civil rights of people with disabilities kept coming into question in my mind. It’s only appropriate that I spent a little bit of time with those fundamentals today.

Things I accomplished

  • Updated my presentation slides about people with disabilities.
  • Updated my presentation slides about accessible digital documents.
  • Completed Deque’s class “Section 508: Fundamentals of the Law and Technical Standards”.

What I reviewed today

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990

Covers:

  • Title I (workplace)
  • Title II (state and local government services)
  • Title III (public accommodation and commercial facilities)
  • Title IV (telecommunications for speech and hearing impaired)
  • Title V (federal enforcement of ADA)

[Federal] Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (amended in 1998)

  • Section 501 (federal employment)
  • Section 502 (enables role of Access Board, which defines ICT and accessibility standards)
  • Section 504 (federally-funded programs and services, including schools)
  • Section 508 (refreshed in 2018; federally-funded information and communication technology), usually enforced with 501 or 504.

What I learned from it

Federal laws were instated to protect people with disabilities, as well as present an example to state and local governments, plus private entities. Laws focus on physical and electronic access.

Physical:

  • Architectural Barriers Act (ABA)
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

Electronic:

  • Section 508 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): for state and local governments
  • Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act

The ADA is essential a blanket civil rights law that protects the equal treatment of people with disabilities. Many lawsuits are championed with the ADA.

The Section 508 refresh specifically references WCAG 2.0, Level AA:

“E205.4 under Electronic Content indicates the accessibility standards for electronic content shall conform to WCAG 2.0 Level A and AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements”

However, non-web documents and non-web software are not required to meet four criteria:

  • 2.4.1 Bypass Blocks
  • 2.4.5 Multiple Ways
  • 3.2.3 Consistent Navigation
  • 3.2.4 Consistent Identification

There are some ICT exceptions in Section 508. These exceptions are:

  • Legacy ICT (“Safe Harbor”; created before January 17, 2018 and compliant with previous 508 standards)
  • National Security Systems (weapons or intelligence)
  • Incidental Federal contracts
  • ICT functions located in maintenance of monitoring systems
  • Undue burden or fundamental alteration (significant difficulty or expense, or alters the fundamental nature of the ICT)
  • Best Meets (a balance between Section 508 and agency needs, if compliant ICT is not available commercially)

The only exceptions to agency official communication (as opposed to public facing) being compliant with Section 508 are any records maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) obsolete to Federal recordkeeping statutes.

Whew! And there’s still so much to learn…

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