Section 508 services

For those businesses who operate or deal within the United States, it is important to take on board local laws in order to maintain both legality and social obligation to your customer base.

Asparagus PR specialise in Multi National Compliance (inc. W3C & Section 508) with clients ranging from private sector ecommerce sites, through to local and national government organisations wishing to conform to these guidelines.

As a background, Section 508 was originally added as an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in 1986. The original section 508 dealt with electronic and information technologies, in recognition of the growth of this field.

In 1997, The Federal Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility and Compliance Act was proposed in the U.S. legislature to correct the shortcomings of the original section 508; the original Section 508 had turned out to be mostly ineffective, in part due to the lack of enforcement mechanisms. In the end, this Federal Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility and Compliance Act, with revisions, was enacted as the new Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, in 1998.

There is much misunderstanding about Section 508. Section 508 addresses legal compliance through the process of market research and government procurement and also has technical standards against which products can be evaluated to determine if they meet the technical compliance. Because technology can meet the legal provisions and be legally compliant (e.g., no such product exists at time of purchase) but may not meet the technical compliance (doesn't meet the Access Board's technical accessibility standards) users are often confused between these two issues. Add to that evaluation of compliance can be done only when reviewing the procurement process and documentation used when making a purchase or contracting for development, the changes in technologies and standards themselves, it requires a more detailed understanding of the law and technology than at first seems necessary.

There is nothing in section 508 that requires private web sites to comply unless they are receiving federal funds or under contract with a federal agency. Commercial best practices include voluntary standards and guidelines as the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). Voluntary accessibility checkers (engines) such as "Bobby" and AccVerify, refer to Section 508 guidelines but have difficulty in accurately testing content for accessibility.

We believe that if there is even the slightest chance that you will be interacting with a U.S. audience or customer base, it is best practice to cater to the legislation of that territory even if it is on a voluntary basis.

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