Section 508 ICT Refresh Likely Coming this October
If you follow web accessibility laws in the United States, we have some really exciting news for you!
In a recent webinar with web accessibility auditor Mike Paciello, it was revealed that the Access Board will likely release the long-anticipated Refresh of the Standards and Guidelines for Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act “around October 2016.”
Mike stated during the webinar:“Section 508, as many know, is under revision. It is on its last legs in terms of that revision process at the government level. And about two and a half weeks ago at the M-Enabling conference, the executive director of the Access Board, David Capozzi, informed the audience that it looked like it was going to be around October when the refresh would officially be released in terms of the new standard for government procurement.”
The good news was also quietly released last month by SSB BART after the M-Enabling Summit.
What does a 508 Refresh mean for businesses and people with disabilities?
As many of us know in the world of electronic information technology (EIT) accessibility, the law is often much older than the technology it is meant to regulate.
Consequentially, people with disabilities that prevent them from using many conventional websites, applications, and other online services have been waiting years for federal and state regulations to require that organizations make their digital content accessible. At the same time, public and private entities have been eagerly awaiting more direct guidelines from the government regarding web accessibility.
As a handful of recent lawsuits have revealed, ambiguity surrounding what content needs to be accessible has caused a lot of tension between users with disabilities and certain organizations like digital video providers and universities.
Additionally, businesses will benefit from more comprehensive and language that points out what gaps will need to be filled (like webpage screen-reader compatibility and closed captioning for videos) to properly comply with accessibility law.
The New Section 508: What to Expect
Section 508 was introduced in 1986 and hasn’t been updated since 1998, so the implications of this refresh are extremely significant across the board. Technological innovations from the past eighteen years are likely going to be the focus for new ICT regulation.
The Access Board opened up the ICT Refresh proposal to public comment during a six-month period last year, so it will be interesting to see how much of an effect the voice of the people will have on new ICT accessibility regulations.
The really big question is how closely the Access Board will align the new Section 508 with W3C’s WCAG 2.0 (the international standard for web accessibility). We know the ICT Refresh will include a “broad application” of WCAG 2.0, but it will be interesting to see how many organizations will need to make significant improvements to their ICT accessibility after its release.