WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

E-mail List Archives

Re: What is happening with the update of section 508?


From: Bevi Chagnon
Date: Nov 28, 2011 10:06AM

Are talking about only websites and not documents (PDFs, Word, PowerPoint,
spreadsheets, email, etc.)?
My reading of the forthcoming 508 Refresh is that WCAG 2.0 is incorporated
into it (called harmonization). Plus the standards/guidelines address other
devices and media, such as routine office documents, PDFs,
telecommunications devices , and other technologies that should be
accessible that WCAG 2.0 doesn't mention.
So if you only want websites to be accessible, then WCAG 2.0 is the route to
But if you want websites and everything else accessible, then we'll need the
broader coverage of Section 508 to make that happen.

One more point: WCAG 2.0 is not a law. It is an international set of
guidelines and standards that people, governments, and enterprises
voluntarily adopt and follow.
Section 508, on the other hand, is part of our federal law that mandates
that all U.S. federal information, communication, and computer technologies
be accessible to federal employees and the general public. To date, several
formal complaints have been filed by federal employees and it has worked to
get at least some problems fixed and the agencies aware of the law's
requirements. I expect that the new 508 Refresh, with its expanded coverage
and more defined language of what's covered, will generate a few more
complaints within the government and lawsuits from the general public.

[Jared wrote: It's antiquated, broken, confusing, and compliance with these
guidelines alone rarely results in very optimal accessibility. If you are
interested in true accessibility (something our government seems not to be),
you should be focusing on WCAG 2.0. Fortunately, very few of our corporate
clients even care about Section 508 any more.]

If your clients are having such a difficult time creating accessible ICT or
it the end result isn't truly accessible, then they're not getting the
proper training.
Send them to me, Jared, and I'll get them humming in no time! <grin> I'm
working with some of the federal government's largest contractors with
consulting and training to make it work. And it really does work.

[Jared wrote: The Access Board's Tim Creagan said that we should not expect
the actual update to occur before Fall 2013.]

Yes, it is very sad that our government has taken such a long time to get to
this point. For these regs to go into affect in 2 years is appalling. But
having worked in Washington for many decades, I also understand some of the
reasons why it takes so long to get anything done: there are so many forces
and stakeholders for every issue, especially with today's political climate
of "all government is evil." Many government agencies are already adopting
the 508 refresh standards (many are my clients), as well as corporate
contractors, so in spite of the long effective date, we will start making
progress in the next few months.

-Bevi Chagnon

Bevi Chagnon, <EMAIL REMOVED>
PubCom - Trainers, consultants, designers, and developers
Print, Web, Acrobat, XML, eBooks, and Federal Section 508
* It's our 30th Year! *