Celebrate the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 508

Happy anniversary, baby!

Seventies pop songs aside, July 26, 2014, was the 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and on August 7 of this year, Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in 1998, will have its 16th anniversary. Sometimes these two laws are mistaken one for the other, but they serve different purposes.

The ADA is a law that protects the rights of people with disabilities, by ensuring that they have equal access to the same opportunities, benefits, and services that people without disabilities have. The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in transportation, jobs, schools, and public and private places that the general public can access.

At the recent social media and accessibility event hosted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), an audience member asked if the ADA applies to websites. According to the ADA.gov website, state and local government agencies are required to have accessible websites under Title II of the ADA. However, it’s worth noting that in some lawsuits that cited ADA violations, such as the National Federation of the Blind vs. Target and the United States of America vs. Hilton Worldwide Inc., the settlements required accessible websites.

U.S. federal government agencies already have accessibility requirements for digital media through the 1998 amendment of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 508 requires government agencies to ensure its information and data is accessible when it uses, develops, maintains, or procures electronic and information technology (EI&T). The law applies to all EI&T, whether it’s used by federal employees or the general public.

You can celebrate the ADA by sharing a story on the ADA Legacy Project and prepare for the 25th anniversary next year by signing the pledge to commit to the ADA. A great way to celebrate Section 508 is by giving access to all people, with or without disabilities, to your government information by building in accessibility at the beginning of your digital media projects.

Find out more about the ADA from the Southeast ADA Center’s ADA Anniversary Tool Kit, and learn more about how the U.S. Access Board is updating the Section 508 standard. You can also get involved in the Accessibility/Web and New Media Community on the OMB MAX portal, and the Chief Information Officers Council’s Accessibility Community of Practice.

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