The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been changing the way business is done in the US since 1990. President George H.W. Bush signed the law that continues to expand in a manner that provides equal opportunities for all citizens. The overall goal is to prohibit discrimination.

The Act oversees compliance so anyone with a disability can participate in mainstream American life and benefit from the same opportunities available to citizens without disabilities.

Your website falls under this Act.

There’s a misconception that the ADA only applies to government agencies.  However, Title III of the ADA and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act add details that infer responsibility for compliance is widespread. It’s overseen by the U.S. General Services Administration, also known as the GSA.  Specific duties include verifying that disabled individuals can access information and electronic technologies as well or better than Section 508 requirements. Unless there is an undue burden to achieve that goal, it requires access and use of data and information comparable to that afforded the general public.

What is Section 508 and who is affected by it?

The Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was updated in 1998 by the inclusion of Section 508. The most significant steps required Federal agencies to make EIT (electronic and information technology) accessible to people with disabilities. The latest update in January 2017 clarified federal sector information and communication technology (ICT) guidelines, such as the addition of telecommunications guidelines. Reorganized Section 508 and Communications Act Section 255 guidelines were aligned to reflect up-to-date innovations in communication technology. The changes apply to federal agencies as well as their contractors, vendors, and partners of those agencies, whether they operate in the US or abroad.

Section 508 compliance differs from that of ADA. The ADA’s Title III states nonprofit service providers and businesses with fifteen or more employees make accessibility accommodations so the disabled public has access to the same services, including websites and electronic media, as non-disabled clients. If your business is smaller, it is beneficial to pursue an ADA-compliant website because it:

  • Limits liability.
  • Meets the requirements of additional clients.

Confirm that any web developer you use includes compliant features in the original site and application plans. Businesses that do work for a government contractor or agency may be subjected to the same scrutiny used to measure their compliance. Standards under Section 508 apply to EIT obtained by the federal government, such as phone systems, computer software and hardware, and websites. Requirements fall under the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Section 508 Standards which cover access for individuals with sensory, cognitive, or physical disabilities.

The Access Board published a final rule on January 18, 2017 regarding accessibility guidelines and Section 508 Standards for telecommunication equipment and products. Compliance requirements are extended to January 18, 2018. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has indicated complaints regarding website ADA-compliance by businesses will be taken on a case-by-case basis. There is an interest in whether disabled Americans have equal access to online services and goods. Businesses and their websites are under scrutiny with little time remaining to determine their status regarding compliance. What resources are available to demonstrate the willingness to comply?