A very brief history of Section 508
What’s in the refresh for government websites?
Essentially, the refresh updates Section 508 accessibility requirements for U.S. government websites to meet WCAG 2.0 Level A and AA guidelines. The WCAG 2.0 guidelines are more explicit than the original Section 508 rules even though they were published in 2007. Having the WCAG 2.0 guidelines incorporated “by reference” is important in that the Access Board has chosen—wisely, many might add—to use internationally-accepted guidelines developed by consensus from a broad representation of member organizations.
The original set of Section 508 requirements did overlap with some of WCAG 2.0, but they now get extended to help more people with varied and different needs. For a comparison of requirements between pre-refresh Section 508 rules and WCAG 2.0 guidelines, the U.S. Access Board published a handy Comparison Table of WCAG 2.0 to Existing 508 Standards.
Does this change Knowbility’s approach to work?
Knowbility has been using WCAG 2.0 guidelines in all of our work, so this update doesn’t materially change our approach to the work we perform. In fact, Knowbility is a member of the W3C and is an active participant in the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative. What this means is that our dedication to current and future international accessibility standards translates into our education programs and client-facing services. As WCAG 2.1 is emerging, Knowbility will be at the forefront helping designers and developers understand and apply this knowledge to make their work more accessible for all.
How will politics and changing policies affect Section 508?
This update to Section 508 was sorely needed and is certainly a step in the right direction. With WCAG 2.1 guidelines emerging soon, we will need to see a more responsive approach to updating Section 508 to keep up. 17 years is too long to wait.