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The Section 508 ICT Refresh Is Finally Here!

  • People celebrating the Section 508 refresh

    Today, the US Access Board released a final rule updating the requirements for information and communication technology (ICT) according to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Communication Act.

    The much-anticipated ICT refresh will reflect international standards for web accessibility and take into account the dramatic changes in technology between the time these laws were published (1998 and 2000) and today.

    Sachin Pavithran, Chair of the Board’s ICT ad hoc committee, said of the refresh, “This update is essential to ensure that the Board’s Section 508 standards and the Communications Act guidelines keep pace with the ever-changing technologies covered and continue to meet the access needs of people with disabilities.”

    How Section 508 Requirements Will Change

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    “ICT requirements that are closely aligned remove ambiguity, increase marketplace competition, and lead to better accessibility features and outcomes.”
    – David M. Capozzi, Access Board Executive Director


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    The final rule brings Section 508 requirements up to speed with modern technology and with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the internationally accepted standard for web accessibility.

    The rule harmonizes Section 508 with WCAG 2.0 Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and applies these standards not only to websites, but also to electronic documents and software.

    Access Board Executive Director David M. Capozzi noted, “Throughout this process, the Board worked very hard to ensure consistency with other consensus guidelines and international standards to promote global harmonization and facilitate compliance. ICT requirements that are closely aligned remove ambiguity, increase marketplace competition, and lead to better accessibility features and outcomes.”

    Changes to Section 508 include:

    • Categorization by functionality instead of by product type
    • Revisions to improve ICT usability, including interoperability with assistive technologies
    • Clarification on the types of ICT covered
    • Correlation of WCAG 2.0 Level A and Level AA standards to all Section 508 requirements

    Closed Captioning and Audio Description Requirements Under the Section 508 Refresh

    The Section 508 refresh assigns WCAG 2.0 success criterion to each existing section of the 508 Standards. These standards modernize the requirements for closed captioning and audio description as follows:

    Prerecorded audio-only or video only:

    • Success criterion 1.2.1
    • WCAG 2.0 Level A
    • 508 section 1194.22(a)
    • Text transcript is provided for audio-only content
    • Text or audio description is provided for video-only content

    Captions (prerecorded):

    • Success criterion 1.2.2
    • WCAG 2.0 Level A
    • 508 section 1194.22(b) and .24(c)
    • Synchronized captions are provided for non-live, Web-based video (YouTube videos, etc.)

    Audio Description (prerecorded):

    • Success criterion 1.2.3
    • WCAG 2.0 Level AA
    • 508 section 1194.22(b) and .24(d)
    • Audio descriptions are provided for all video content

    Captions (live):

    • Success criterion 1.2.4
    • WCAG 2.0 Level AA
    • 508 section 1194.22(b) and .24(c)
    • Synchronized captions are provided for all live multimedia that contain audio

    The refresh also revises the requirements for user controls for captions and audio description to make user controls “available when captions and audio descriptions can be enabled through system-wide platform settings. […] Where operable parts are provided for volume control, ICT shall also provide operable parts for caption selection. […] Where ICT provides operable parts for program selection, it shall also provide operable parts for the selection of audio description.”

    Finally, it requires that for video with synchronized audio, closed caption processing technology must be provided that conforms to 413.1.1 (decoding and display of closed captions) or 413.1.2 (pass-through of closed caption data).

    A detailed chart of all Section 508 standards and their corresponding WCAG 2.0 success criteria can be found in the Access Board’s final regulatory impact analysis.

    Who Is Covered?

    Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act covers federal programs and services in regards to electronic and information technology. Beyond federal programs and services, many states reference Section 508 standards and require compliance with the federal law.

    When Will the Rule Take Effect?

    The rule will be published later this month in the Federal Register and will take effect one year after publication, in early 2018.

    Current Section 508 Standards and Section 255 Guidelines will remain in effect until then.

    The Access Board will be holding a webinar on the final rule on February 2nd.

    Download the white paper:

    Download the white paper: Section 504 & 508 Requirements

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