Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) Categories
Ease of locating, navigating to, and understanding wanted or needed information measures accessibility. Accessibility eliminates barriers to information and communications technology (ICT). Accessibility encourages development of technologies and techniques.
A disability is any condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities. Recognized groups of disabilities include:
- Photosensitive epilepsy
- Cognitive impairments
- Limited language, cognitive and learning abilities
- Deaf or limited hearing
- Blind or limited vision
- Without perception of color
- Non-verbal or limited speech
- Limited manipulation
- Limited reach and strength
Any device, software, or equipment that helps people adapt their environment. Examples include text-to-speech, dictation, closed captioning, high contrast, and alternate input devices.
Section 508 is a federal law. It requires access to ICT developed, procured, maintained, or used by federal agencies. ICT stands for information and communications technology. The audience is employees and members of the public with disabilities. Equal or comparable access must be available when seeking information, data, or services. Meeting a set of technical standards determines a level of Section 508 conformance.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a set of standards. Individuals, organizations, and governments use the standards to ensure access to all users. The standards cover code or markup that define structure or presentation.
Always assume Section 508 is applicable. Unless determined by an OpDiv Digital Accessibility Program Manager. In rare instances a Section 508 General Exception may apply. Meaning Section 508 applies but the ICT is not required to conform. Only the HHS and OpDiv Digital Accessibility Program Managers can grant an exception.
ICT developed, procured, funded, maintained, or used by HHS on or after June 21, 2001, must adhere to the original Section 508 standards. Also, any ICT developed, procured, funded, maintained, or used on or after January 18, 2018, must adhere to the Revised Section 508 Standards. This applies to all HHS internal content and communications and external content.
To reduce legal risk to the agency, content needs to be conformant from the beginning. Content needs to be conformant BEFORE posting or distributing. Non-conformant content requires a remediation plan. The content owner must work with their respective OpDiv Section 508 Program Manager.
Yes. Anytime the government procures, develops, funds, uses, or maintains ICT. This includes external public facing, non-public facing official agency communications, and internal applications.
The following are only examples. It is not an exhaustive list.
- Software & hardware with user interfaces
- COTS and GOTS licenses
- Emails, electronic documents, training materials
- List of deliverables in a services contract
- Audio and/or video, webinars, recorded meetings
- Posting to and use of social media
- Intranet content as a webpage or web application
- External webpages and web applications
Most exceptions only apply to specific features or functions. The whole project will not likely qualify for an exception. There are seven types of exceptions. Each has unique criteria and documentation requirements. Only HHS and OpDiv Digital Accessibility Program officials can grant exceptions. Refer to the HHS Policy for Section 508 Compliance and Accessibility of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for exception request criteria.
All staff involved in the ICT life cycle. This includes management, business owners, technical team members, and other staff. With or without contractors, the government is accountable for conformance. The government must respond to access requests, litigation, and ensure conformance.
- Audience size – How many users?
- Visibility – Team, OpDiv, Department, Public?
- Conformance – When comparing products, which is the most accessible product meeting business needs?
- Impact – The severity of excluding accessibility from a life cycle step.
HHS' requires adherence to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) levels A & AA. ICT accessibility also includes other Section 508 provisions. Provisions include software, hardware, support documentation, and Section 255 of the Communications Act.
Note 1: Stakeholders should review the HHS conformance checklists. Content must meet all HHS requirements (including any above the minimum).
Note 2: Respective OpDiv Digital Accessibility Programs can identify any OpDiv-specific conformance requirements.
Applicable technical requirements depend on the format of the product or content. More than one chapter of the standards may apply. Review the 508 Chapter 2: Scoping Requirements and 255 Chapter 2: Scoping Requirements for applicable provisions. GSA’s Accessibility Requirements Tool (ART) can also assist with determining applicable requirements.
User interface and functionality updates, upgrades, and new releases need a conformance review. Obtaining a review applies to software, hardware, web (inter- & intra-), mobile, or document versions.
Per the HHS Policy for Section 508 Compliance and Accessibility of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), only OpDiv Section 508 Program Managers (or their designee) can “authorize or reject, or determine guidelines for, ICT in which the OpDiv procures, develops, maintains, or uses to be deployed or published on the merits of Section 508 conformance”.
OpDiv Section 508 Program Managers (or designee) have the discretion to accept results from another agency or party. An external report or checklist must meet HHS and OpDiv-specific Section 508 requirements.