In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology (EIT) accessible to people with disabilities. The law (29 U.S.C. § 794 (d)) applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Under Section 508, agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to access available to others.
Since June 2001 the law has required all content created using federal money to be 508 compliant. This includes government hosted or contractor hosted websites and intranet sites. This also includes content hosted by third-party services like YouTube.
The above statement is very important for government contractors. Because, under Section 508, federal contractors must provide disabled employees access to technology comparable to the access available to non-disabled persons. The purpose is ensuring full access and encouraging diversity in the workforce by removing barriers to otherwise gainfully employable individuals.
If you are doing business with or selling to the government, be sure that you meet the accessibility requirements under Section 508. The questions for contractors who wish to continue to sell EIT products or services to the Federal government are: (1) how to apply the standards; and (2) whether, and in what form, to “certify” to the agency that its products or services are Section 508 compliant.
Section 508 is a reality governing all Federal agency contracts. EIT products and services that do not meet compliance standards or come under an applicable exception can no longer be purchased by Federal agencies. Companies are already seeking to capitalize on the regulation, looking to unseat established competitors who do not comply with Section 508 standards.
The Bottom Line is, if your company’s sales of EIT products and services rely on the Federal marketplace, Section 508 compliance is an absolute imperative for continued business success. Making PDFs accessible (508 compliant) requires a thorough knowledge of (1) specific accessibility laws, (2) the ever-changing standards; and (3) specialized tools. Seek the help of a company that has specialized experience in 508 Compliance remediation.