Accessibility

Zoomed in view of the word "access" on a keyboard return key.

The Office of Communications fully embraces the scope and intent of Section 508. We are committed to ensuring that our customers and employees with and without disabilities benefit from the use of accessible electronic and information technology (for example websites, applications, software, etc.)

From content creators to website developers, interns to senior leadership, it’s everyone's responsibility to ensure an inclusive environment. Accessibility is not only the law; it’s the right thing to do!

 

What is Accessibility?

Accessibility is the degree by which something is accessible or usable by persons with disabilities. Sidewalk ramps or curb cuts allow for easy wheelchair access for those with mobility impairments, and crosswalks with audio cues help those with visual impairments know when it is safe for to cross the street. Accommodations are made in the physical world that let people with disabilities to perform everyday tasks. The same principle applies to electronic information and technology.

Section 508 accessibility enables equal access digitally. Accessibility is meant to help those with various disabilities: visual, auditory, mobility and dexterity, and cognitive or language difficulties.

We want to ensure that we're taking the needs of people with disabilities into account when we're designing, building, creating, and buying content for our sites and applications. That means implementing processes to address accessibility and using best practices in our work that ensures people with different abilities can use what we create.

Accessibility is closely related to Usability, and the two sometimes overlap, though they aren’t the same. Usability is about designing web pages to be more effective, efficient, and satisfying for all people. Accessibility addresses specific issues that put people with disabilities at a disadvantage when using electronic and information technology.

What is Section 508?

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Visit disclaimer page (29 U.S.C. 794d), an amendment to United States Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973, was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, open new opportunities for people with disabilities, and encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology (EIT). Technology is deemed to be "accessible" if it can be used as effectively by people with disabilities as those without.

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 Section 508 law is broad in scope, applying to all technology the federal government buys, builds, maintains, and uses. Non-compliance can result in time consuming and costly lawsuits, delayed implementation of key IT investment priorities, and damage to public missions or image.

Accessibility is not only the law; it is the right thing to do!

Section 508 Refresh

Because technology is constantly evolving, Section 508 accessibility standards mandated over a decade ago must evolve as well. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) Visit disclaimer page to help standardize and modernize commonly used accessibility standards. These guidelines are more extensive and complete than the standards established by Section 508. Federal agencies will be required to adhere to WCAG 2.0 AA.