Do Your State’s Laws Require Section 508 Accessibility Compliance?
Updated: November 13, 2020
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act established regulations for federal entities to accommodate people with disabilities. It covers physical access — such as wheelchair ramps and elevators — and digital access to information and resources. A major part of digital accessibility is providing captioning for online video content. In fact, Section 508 references WCAG 2.0 Level AA as the standard to meet for web compliance.
Section 508 applies to all federal government agencies and their websites. It does not apply to private industry. However, several states have adopted Section 508 regulations into their own laws (“little 508s”), requiring state government entities to comply with federal accessibility standards. Some other states created their own accessibility laws based on Section 508 or other standards.
Public colleges and universities in these states must be aware of the requirements for accessible media in their state. Schools in states with strict accessibility legislation would need captions or transcripts for all their online video content.
Check the list below for a brief overview of states that have laws or policies for expanded accessibility standards.
Alabama’s Information Services Division states on its website:
“In recognition of those individuals with visual, physical or developmental disabilities the State of Alabama has adopted a policy to make government information accessible to all.”
Web developers for the state of Alabama are asked to comply with universal design standards as outlined by the W3C and Access Board. In their information technology standard document, they cite Section 508 as the standard for accessibility compliance.
The government of Arizona has a stated policy to follow accessible design for information technology.
All Arkansas government or state-funded entities are required to have websites that are “equally accessible to blind or visually impaired visitors.”
The California Government Code requires that all electronic and information technology created or used by the state must be fully accessible.
California State University outlines a fairly comprehensive web accessibility policy, with specific enforcement measures to ensure compliance with Section 508. The state uses software to automatically evaluation the accessibility of a website; human due diligence is encouraged in addition.
The university’s robust FAQ page spells out the benefits and characteristics of an accessible website, including “transcripts or captions for audio, video, and multimedia content.”
Colorado’s state accessibility laws are modeled under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, WCAG 2.0, and C.R.S 24-85-104, Article 85.
Colorado’s deaf and hard of hearing requirements state that state agencies and state departments must provide “auxiliary services, telecommunications equipment, and other resources in order to enable access for the deaf and hard of hearing community.”
According to the 2020 Florida Statutes, “each state agency shall develop, procure, maintain, and use accessible electronic information and information technology […] that conforms to the applicable provisions set forth by s. 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973…” This means that Florida state agencies must comply with WCAG 2.0 Level AA.
The Illinois Information Technology Accessibility Act (IITAA) demands that all Illinois universities and agencies make their IT accessible. The IITAA is modeled after Section 508 and will reflect updates to that law as they occur.
Indiana has an Assistive Technology Standards Group which ensures state electronic and IT properties mirror Section 508 standards.
The Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) in Iowa is committed to ensuring all governmental websites comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act.
The State of Iowa has also adapted WCAG 2.0 Level A and Level AA as the standard for website accessibility.
Kansas’s state policy demands that state software and IT complies with Section 508 and W3C guidelines at a minimum.
Kentucky law requires all state and other state-assisted organizations to ensure individuals with disabilities are provided access to all information technology equipment and software “that is equivalent to the access provided to individuals who are not disabled.”
The Kentucky Accessible Information Technology (AIT) law was passed in April 2000. The law is split into five sections covering definitions, technology equipment requirements, procurement of IT, an exclusion cause, and injury violation procedure.
Louisiana state policy encourages Section 508 compliance and sums up why it’s a great standard:
“Federal officials say adhering to Section 508 regulations and improving accessibility for people with disabilities make good business sense. Enabling everyone to do their jobs, using the tools that help them best do their jobs, is simply good business and helps individuals become fully integrated into the workplace.”
Maine is committed to making online information accessible to all constituents.
Maine’s policy states, “All citizens and employees, including those who have disabilities, have a right to access Maine’s information resources and to that end Maine State Government’s facilities, technologies, and services that are sources for information must be designed to provide universal access.”
Maine’s web accessibility policy is influenced by WCAG 2.0.
Maryland has several laws relating to accessibility for state government web sites. The laws cover web site design, functionality, and content.
Massachusetts introduced web accessibility standards to ensure equal access to state web pages for all of its citizens, including those with disabilities. These standards are based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0.
In 2009, Minnesota passed the Assistive Technology Bill, which created the STAR program (A System of Technology to Achieve Results). This federally-funded program is proactive about matching people with assistive technology that meets their needs. The law also requires Minnesota to adopt Section 508 and WCAG standards.
Missouri state law holds all state agencies to Section 508 standards, with ‘state agencies’ defined as “each department, office, board, bureau, commission or other unit of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of state government, including public four-year and two-year colleges and universities.”
Nebraska’s web accessibility standards are meant to provide equal access to all individuals in the state.
The NTIC 2-101: Accessibility Policy sets guideline to make content accessible for blind and visually impaired individuals.
All New Hampshire State agency web and mobile applications need to comply with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and be consistent with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
As of 2010, New York upholds a revised state accessibility policy which partially aligns with WCAG and Section 508.
North Dakota websites must be accessible as required by the federal ADA and Section 508, as well as the North Dakota Human Rights Statute. All existing, new, and updated web content must comply with WCAG 2.0 Level AA.
Ohio’s Web Site Accessibility Policy is modeled after Section 508 and requires a minimum compliance with WCAG 2.0 Level A and Level AA.
The law applies to all public-facing State of Ohio websites.
The Oklahoma Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility law (EITA), passed in 2004, mirrors Section 508 and applies to state agencies, post-secondary schools, and the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education system.
Alongside Section 508, Pennsylvania also has their own accessibility policies. All websites must provide the same or equivalent access to individuals with disabilities. They must also test and validate websites for accessibility. The state has their own standards for website accessibility called the ITP-SF002.
All multimedia files must have text alternatives like closed caption or a transcript.
South Carolina is committed to ensuring their websites are up-to-date with latest web accessibility standards. The state’s standards are based on Section 508 and WCAG 1.0.
Texas requires state agency websites and institution of higher education websites to be compliant with Section 508.
The State of Utah models their accessibility guidelines after W3C recommendations and Section 508.
The State of Vermont has adopted Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and W3C Web Accessibility Initiative standards and guidelines as the benchmark for their accessibility policy.
All state colleges, state universities, and state agencies must comply with Section 508 and any additional requirements set forth by the Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA).
In 2005, Washington’s Department of Information Services adopted a statewide policy establishing accessibility standards that align with Section 508.
Wisconsin accessibility laws adhere to the standards set by the U.S. Access Board. These standards are modeled after the ADA. People with disabilities in the state of Wisconsin are guaranteed “reasonable accommodation” free of charge by the service provider.
State websites must adhere to the standards outlined by Section 508.
This list will be updated as state laws evolve.
This post was originally published by Emily Griffin on March 3, 2015 and has since been updated.
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