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Synopsis of Section 508 Accessibility Requirements
Section 508 requires Federal agencies to ensure that individuals with disabilities who are members of the public or Federal employees have access to and use of electronic and information technology (EIT) that is comparable to that provided to individuals without disabilities, unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency. The requirements of Section 508 apply to an agency's procurement of EIT, as well as the agency's development, maintenance, or use of EIT.
Although Federal agencies have an explicit statutory obligation to make all electronic and information technology (EIT) that they develop, procure, maintain, or use compliant with Section 508, individuals may only file complaints or lawsuits to enforce Section 508's requirements with respect to EIT systems procured or deployed on or after June 21, 2001. Learn more at FAR Final Rule. The Section 508 requirements do not apply retroactively to pre-existing EIT. However, as agencies upgrade and change their electronic and information technology, they must comply with the standards. Specifically, the Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility Standards: Economic Assessment states that:
"The standards are to be applied prospectively and do not require Federal agencies to retrofit existing electronic and information technology. As agencies upgrade and change their electronic and information technology, they must comply with the standards." (See Chapter 2.1 Final Standards)
It should be noted, however, that Federal agencies have additional responsibilities under Section 501 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. These Sections require that agencies provide reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities and provide program access to members of the public with disabilities and take other actions necessary to prevent discrimination on the basis of disability in their programs.