Updates to Section 508—Website Accessibility: What’s Changed

Updates to Section 508—Website Accessibility: What’s Changed
Posted on 01/17/2018
CivicLive Blog - Updates to Section 508—Website Accessibility: What’s Changed

Website accessibility is a major focus for every government—not only because it’s the right thing to do but also because adhering to Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the law. Every government website must be accessible, meaning they must ensure website users with disabilities (hearing/visual impairments, learning disabilities, etc.) can navigate a site with ease. Hopefully your website is up-to-date and already accessible to your diverse user set so none of this is news to you. But, perhaps you didn’t know that some major updates to Section 508 will be coming into effect on January 18, 2018.

Last year we shared several tips to help you make your website accessible. This year, we’re focusing on the new updates to Section 508 you need to know about.

There are three big changes:


The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), which were developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) are now fully incorporated into ADA’s overall guidelines. The ADA’s update includes use of the latest WCAG 2.0 guidelines, and focuses on making the overall website usability experience easier on people with disabilities.


The newest accessibility updates call for improved synchronization and compatibility between government website operating systems and assistive tools and technologies people may use to access the internet. This means that despite a government making the effort to ensure they’re following the most up-to-date accessibility requirements they have to also be aware of updates to web browsers and/or assistive tools (such as screen readers) that could require further adjustments on their website for full accessibility. Keeping a website accessible is an ongoing process, which requires great attention to detail and keeping up-to-date with constant changes in technology.


And finally, the last big change calls for all shared content to be easily accessible. Easily accessible content means refraining from uploading scanned documents (screen readers are incapable of reading PDFs) and ensuring any videos on your website include closed captioning or complete transcripts of the video(s). Images should also include descriptive captions that could be read by screen readers. Check out some more tips for making your website accessible in our blog post on Building Accessible Websites. You can also read the complete WCAG 2.0 guidelines for creating accessible content to give you a more thorough understanding of how you should be producing all content on your website.


There are more changes, which you can read about on the official GSA Section 508 website. It’s important to note that these updates—particularly the official inclusion of the WCAG 2.0 guidelines—is a big step in the right direction for accessibility. The governing body for WCAG, the W3C, consists of a wide-range of accessibility experts, who have the knowledge and expertise to ensure that the decisions and changes being specified will in fact improve websites’ accessibility and usability. Using WCAG 2.0 guidelines also allows for better world-wide cohesion as WCAG 2.0 guidelines are used internationally.

These latest revisions to Section 508 aim to simplify the process of creating an accessible website, while also making the rules and regulations easier to understand for everyone involved. While using the guidelines provided by both the GSA and WCAG are the best way to get started on making your government website accessible, it’s important to remember that needs vary, and as technologies change and evolve, so too will the rules and regulations around website accessibility.

Learn how CivicLive solutions can help you on your journey to a fully-accessible government website, contact us today.

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