The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) helps protect people with diversabilties (diverse abilities). Its primary job is to increase accessibility and inclusion for anyone who is differently-abled. Two sections of the ADA, 504 and 508, apply specifically to federal departments and agencies, meaning private sector businesses and businesses that receive federal funding are exempt from these particular sections.
However, there are cases when federal contractors may need to adhere to the rules under these sections. There are a few important points that federal agencies and departments as well as contractors should be aware of when ensuring compliance with these sections of the ADA.
What are the Purposes of Sections 504 and 508 of the ADA?
The purposes of sections 504 and 508 are similar but not exactly the same:
- Section 504 – This section requires federal agencies to provide individuals with disabilities equal access to their programs and information. This means that they need to offer assistive technology when requested by an individual.
- Section 508 – Under this section, federal agencies must ensure that people have comparable access to any information technology; most recently, this section has become exceptionally relevant to website compliance.
Together, these sections of the ADA ensure that anything the government provides to the public is accessible to as many people as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Sections 504/508?
When reading through these sections of the ADA, there are a few points that federal agencies might find vague, too generalized, or subjective. These are some of the most common questions that we see:
- How are Sections 504/508 enforced? – These rules are enforced through a complaint process. You can learn more about that here. If individuals with diversabilties are unable to get the information that they need, participate in programs, or access your website appropriately, they may issue a complaint.
- What falls under “electronic and information technology?” – Any technology that is used to store or access information. This definition includes computer hardware, software, websites, and other peripherals.
- What exactly does “accessible” mean? – In the instance of technology and information, accessible means that the information can be disseminated in ways that do not rely on just one sense or ability. For example, any critical communications should be available both in written and audible form. They should also be written at a sixth-eighth grade level so that they are simple for anyone to understand.
- Does this limit creativity on my website? – No, it does not. Instead, it often means offering alternatives to what you have. Many web development and design companies have experience adapting websites for accessibility.
How Can I Get Help Adhering to Sections 504/508?
If your company or agency is struggling to figure out the best way to handle 504/508 compliance, working with an external agency can help! At Applied Development, we offer diversability compliance services to over 13 states and have extensive experience with government agencies and contractors.