Section 508 is being updated. I participate on the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee (TEITAC) which has been working on recommended language for the last year or so. We are getting closer to finalized language and hope to make our recommendations to the U.S. Access Board in January. Because Section 508 and the Telecommunication Act, which we’re also updating, have such far reaching impact on accessibility, we invite you to review the draft provisions and send us feedback.
A few things to note:
- Section 508 is much more than web standards. These provisions apply to all electronic and information technology, including telephone systems, copiers, computer monitors, etc. While the existing guidelines focus on individual technologies (there are distinct sections for HTML, software, applets, etc.), the language TEITAC will recommend puts all of the guidelines in one place, but focuses more on product characteristics (e.g., “If the product has speech output…”).
- Section 508, in the strictest sense, applies only to U.S. federal agencies. The practical implications are much broader, but the language of the provisions is targeted to procurement of goods and services by agencies. The guidelines are not intended to be comprehensive, formal design guidelines, such as WCAG 2.0. However, you’ll notice that the draft 508 standards are identical to WCAG 2.0 in many places.
- The provisions are in draft form. Once finalized, these provisions will only be recommendations. As such, they can and will be changed. It will take at least two years of editing, clarification, public comment, and statutory review before these standards will be finalized.
You can review the most recent draft of the provisions at http://teitac.org/wiki/EWG:Draft_Oct_26. You will likely be very overwhelmed by this document. Much of it deals with the statutory implementation of Section 508. Much of the document is committee notes and documentation. If you are interested in reviewing the technical provisions that apply to web content, please read the following sections:
- General Technical Requirements
- User Interface and Electronic Content Provisions
- Audio and/or Video Content
There are other provisions that would affect web accessibility, but gleaning them from this complicated document may be a bit difficult. You may also want to review the definitions, as much of the meat of the provisions is contained there.
There is not a formalized method for providing feedback to TEITAC. But, as a member organization, if you give us your feedback in the comments below or by contacting us directly, we’ll review your feedback and pass it on.