Websites and Electronic Documents Accessibility
Accessible websites, electronic documents, and equipment used to generate information are examples of accessible information and communication technology (ICT). Properly designed ICT makes accessing electronic communications and equipment available to individuals with disabilities. Federal agencies are obligated under section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act to design websites and develop purchasing procedures so they meet minimum standards to ensure they are accessible to and useable by individuals with disabilities. Section 508 is enforced by the U.S. Access Board.
- Information and Communication Technology
- Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
- Information and Communication Technology under the ADA
- Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act
Accessible Information and Communication Technology (ICT) makes accessing electronic communications and equipment available to individuals with disabilities. Federal agencies are obligated under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act to design websites and develop electronic documents so they meet minimum standards to ensure they are accessible to and useable by individuals with disabilities. Section 508 is enforced by the US Access Board.
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 508) requires that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) developed, procured, maintained, or used by federal agencies to meet minimum standards to ensure access for people with disabilities. Examples include computers, telecommunications equipment, multifunction office machines, software, websites, and electronic documents.
Section 508 was updated or “refreshed” to keep pace with current technology as well as technology yet to be developed. The updated rule also applies to guidelines for telecommunications equipment subject to Section 255 of the Communications Act. The rule jointly updates and reorganizes the Section 508 Standards and Section 255 guidelines in response to market trends and innovations, such as the convergence of technologies.
The refresh also harmonizes these requirements with other guidelines and standards both in the U.S. and abroad, including standards issued by the European Commission and with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a globally recognized voluntary consensus standard for web content and ICT.
Currently Section 508 requirements only apply to Federal agencies (unless adopted by a state or local government). At this point, the ADA does not have specific regulations governing the development of electronic information and communication technology. The ADA does require covered entities to provide individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in the covered entities’ offerings. The ADA will change over time to require greater accessibility of information and communication technology.
Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act
Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act (Section 255) requires telecommunications products and services to be accessible to people with disabilities. Manufacturers must ensure that products are “designed, developed, and fabricated to be accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities” when it is readily achievable to do so. Guidelines issued by the US Access Board under Section 255 address the accessibility of telecommunications products including:
• Cell phones
• Cable boxes
• Computers with modems
• Interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol products
• Telecommunications software
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is responsible for enforcing Section 255 and has issued regulations that contain requirements based on the Access Board’s guidelines.