Section 508 ICT refresh; final rule; Access board approves

Section 508 ICT Refresh Is Approved in Final Rule

Section 508 ICT Refresh Is Approved by US Access Board Final Rule

The US Access Board released a long-awaited final rule approving the Section 508 ICT Refresh, which harmonizes the requirements for information and communication technology (ICT) in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Communication Act with WCAG 2.0.

The approval of the ICT Refresh means that Section 508 and Section 255 standards will finally be up-to-date with the technologies of today. These laws were originally published in 1998 and 2000, a time when WCAG 1.0 were the international standards on web accessibility. In 2008, WCAG 2.0 replaced WCAG 1.0 to keep up with technological advancements and provide an easier-to-understand and more testable set of guidelines.

While this final rule was just released yesterday, January 9, 2017, the DOJ has been holding organizations to WCAG 2.0 Level A and AA conformance for the past few years.

The approval of the Section 508 ICT Refresh is celebratory news and will ensure people with disabilities will continue to be served in the age of ever-evolving technologies. Sachin Pavithran, Chair of the Board’s ICT ad hoc committee, said,

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.

Major Revisions to Section 508 Requirements

The ICT Refresh final rule replaces the old 508 requirements with WCAG 2.0 success criteria factors and applies them to off-line documents and software as well. The main changes:

  1. Correlate WCAG 2.0 success criteria to websites, electronic documents, and software
    • This is found in sections E205-E207 of Chapter 2 – Scoping requirements
    • “E205.4 Accessibility Standard. Electronic content shall conform to Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements in WCAG 2.0 (incorporated by reference, see 702.10.1).”
  2. Require real-time text functionality (RTT) in Section 255 Guidelines
    • Real-time text (RTT) technology transmits text in near real-time as each character is typed. RTT is important as an equivalent alternative to voice communications for persons who are deaf, or who have limited hearing or speech impairments.
    • The FCC approved RTT on December 15, 2016
  3. Specify the types of non-public facing electronic content covered.
    • Electronic content that is not public facing has to conform to E205.4 when it constitutes official business and is communicated by an agency through one or more of the following:
      • An emergency notification
        Section 508 ICT refresh; final rule; Access board approves ICT refresh
        Access Board approves Section 508 ICT Refresh
      • An initial or final decision adjudicating an administrative claim or proceeding
      • An internal or external program or policy announcement
      • A notice of benefits, program eligibility, employment opportunity, or personnel action
      • A formal acknowledgment of receipt
      • A survey questionnaire
      • A template or form
      • Educational or training materials
      • Intranet content designed as a Web page
  4. Detail the required compatibility of covered technologies, including operating systems, software development toolkits, and software applications with assistive technology
    • See Chapter 4 – Hardware, 401-415
      • 402.1 ICT with closed functionality shall be operable without requiring the user to attach or install assistive technology other than personal headsets or other audio couplers, and shall conform to 402.
    • See Chapter 5 – Software, 501-504
      • 502.1 Software shall interoperate with assistive technology and shall conform to 502.
    • See Chapter 2, E207 – Software
      • E206.1 Where components of ICT are hardware and transmit information or have a user interface, such components shall conform to the requirements in Chapter 4.

Section 508 Closed Captioning Requirements

The closed captioning and audio description requirements now represent the WCAG 2.0 level A and AA success criteria. The changes are as follows:

Section 508 ICT refresh; final rule; Access board approves ICT refresh
Access Board approves Section 508 ICT Refresh

Audio-only and Video-only (prerecorded)

Captions (prerecorded)

Audio Description (prerecorded)

Captions (live)

You can view a detailed reference chart of all WCAG success criteria and the correlated Section 508 sections here.

Who is Subject to Section 508?

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act covers federal programs and services in regards to electronic and information technology. All ICT that is procured, developed, maintained, or used by agencies shall conform to the Revised 508 Standards. 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 take effect one year after its publication in the Federal Register, which should happen later this month. The 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.

Nicole E. Flynn, CMO at cielo24, is deeply interested in exploring and communicating the ways in which Artificial Intelligence (AI) intersects with various aspects of our daily lives. She is passionate about exploring the ways in which AI can be ethically harnessed to improve the quality of life and make our world a better place. Nicole seeks to educate and inform audiences about the potential of AI technology and how it can be used to drive innovation and growth.