ICT Refresh for Section 508: A Timeline of the Proposed Rule, Requirements, and Effective Date
On February 18, 2015, the U.S. Access Board submitted an official proposed rule to revise and update the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Standards and Guidelines as covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Communications Act. This Section 508 refresh has been in the works for a while, but now that an official proposed rule has been released, a more realistic timeline of the rule and its requirements can be followed.
About the Section 508 Refresh and WCAG 2.0
The U.S. Access Board’s proposed refresh will update the existing Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, as well as the Telecommunications Act Accessibility Guidelines under Section 255 of the Communications Act. Because of the “dramatic changes” in technology between their respective publications (2000 and 1998) and today, the Access Board feels that it is past time to update accessibility requirements to reflect modern technology.
The ICT Refresh will include a “broad application” of the Web Accessibility Initiative’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. WCAG 2.0 is an international standard for web accessibility that currently has no legal bearing in the United States but that provides a much more comprehensive approach to web accessibility than the current Section 508 standards. WCAG 2.0 includes a series of guidelines that cover four universal design concepts and three levels of fulfillment criteria (the ICT Refresh will require compliance with Level A and AA Success Criteria). For example, the WCAG 2.0 requirements for captioning include:
- Level A Compliance: captions for prerecorded, synchronized media
- Level AA compliance: captions for live, synchronized media
The full list of updates can be found in the Access Board’s executive summary of the proposed rule.
When Will You Have to Comply with the Refresh?
The updated Section 508 Standards will not come into effect until six months after the publication of the final rule in the Federal Register. As of now, the proposed rule is being published on February 27, 2015, but the final rule is awaiting comment through May 28, 2015. What that means is that a final rule will not be published until – at the very earliest – early June of 2015, and the requirements will follow 6 months later.
In other words, it is important to start thinking about implementing the Standards documented in the ICT Refresh, but in all likelihood, it will be at least a year until you are legally required to do so. Keep in mind that only those who are implicated by Section 508 will have to conform to the new ICT Standards. The current Section 508 Standards and Section 255 Guidelines will remain in effect until the ICT Refresh rulemaking is complete.
Timeline for the Section 508 ICT Refresh
- February 18, 2015: The Access Board released the proposed rule to update Section 508 Standards and 255 guidelines. The proposed rule is currently available for public comment.
- February 27, 2015: The proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register.
- March 5, 2015: The Board will hold a public hearing on the rule in San Diego.
- March 11, 2015: The Board will hold a public hearing on the rule in Washington, DC.
- March 31, 2015: The Board will conduct a public webinar to review the proposal.
- May 28, 2015: The deadline for submitting public comment on the proposed rule to the Access Board.
- After May 28, 2015: The Board will publish their final rule in the Federal Register sometime after they have received and reviewed public comment on the proposed rule.
- 6 Months After the Final Rule: The effective date for the ICT refresh will be 6 months after the final rule is published in the Federal Register. However, the Board is also seeking comment on the effective date, so it is possible that the 6-month window will change.
We’ll keep you updated as the proposed rule plays itself out!