Section 504 Compliance: Website Accessibility for Private Entities Who Receive Federal Assistance

Another way in which the federal government accessibility standards apply to private organizations is through Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

So let’s start with Section 508.

Section 508 generally requires that federal agencies make sure their information communications technology are accessible.

And so 508 also involves procurement and dealing with vendors and so vendors under Section 508 you need to make sure their ICT is accessible.

When it comes to section 504, 504 prohibits discrimination on a disability based on disability by federal agencies also by recipients of federal assistance.

So if you receive federal funding, if you receive grants, if you receive loans- any type of government monies, you likely fall under section 504.

So if you receive financial assistance and you likely fall under section 504 and per the website – and I will link to this below – per Section 508, you need to make sure that your website is WCAG conformant.

So the standards under Section 508, they have been refreshed, they now incorporate the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0 conformance level AA.

And so if you receive federal funding under Section 504 you are very likely required to provide for accessibility and make sure that your website is accessible.

Specifically in the language it says, “in this instance accessibility applies to facilities and communications such as websites so if you’re organization receives federal funding or assistance your website is required to be accessible.”

And I will provide that link below.

So who does Section 504 typically affect?

Universities or colleges, public and private schools who receive funding, hospitals, nursing homes, mental health centers and so on.

So this is not to necessarily say because you’re not one of these, you’re not required under Section 504 to make your website accessible.

This is just- these are examples of entities that do receive financial assistance from the federal government.

And just because section 504 doesn’t apply to you, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need to concern yourself with accessibility.

Of course it’s the right thing to do but beyond that you may be required or mandated to make your website accessible your other laws for interpretations of other laws.

So the American with Disabilities Act may apply.

There may be different state laws such as the California Unruh Act, the New York State Human Rights Law that applies.

Basically you want to make your website accessible you can argue that technicalities can look for possible exceptions, but generally there is some law where you are going to be- it’s likely that you will need to make your website accessible but especially if you do receive federal funding then you need to make your website accessible.