Section 508 vs. 504 Compliance for Website Accessibility

The difference between section 508 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act as it relates to private entities and website accessibility is that under Section 508 if- 508 deals with contractors or vendors and the procurement process.

So under 508, if you are a vendor, they’re going to evaluate your product or service based on accessibility and if your website is a part of that product or service then the website- your website is likely going to be required to be accessible.

Because Section 508 deals with information and communications technology and electronic content is part of that and so websites fall under electronic content.

So with 508, the focus is primarily on the product or service that is being procured but a website might be a part of that because if- especially if the information on the website is necessary or needed or involves the product or the usage of the product.

So that’s Section 508.

And remember with 508, it involves procurement, if you are a contractor then you need to make your ICT accessible.

When it comes to Section 504, 504 requires accessibility of recipients of federal funding so if you receive financial aid or grants or loans or any type of governmental monies that are extended as financial assistance then you need to make sure that your website is accessible.

And types- the examples of entities that fall under Section 504, so think of universities or colleges, educational institutions, public or private schools hospitals. nursing homes, mental health centers.

Nonprofit associations and organizations who receive federal funding are likely also affected here so it doesn’t mean that each of these entities are required under Section 504, but if you receive federal funding these are the types of entities that are likely to receive federal funding.

So then has explicitly stated that your website does need to be accessible.

Now the standard for accessibility under Section 508 is now the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2.0 conformance level AA.

I think it is very likely that we will see the Access Board update this standard to be WCAG 2.1 Level AA.

But for the time being 2.0 AA is the standard it won’t hurt it won’t harm your efforts at all if you go to 2.1 because 2.1 incorporates 2.0 but adds additional requirements for success criteria to 2.0 so it really just makes your accessibility that much better.

There’s no downside to that there’s no downside to becoming 2.1 AA conformant.

But that’s the difference between section 504 and 508 as it relates to private entities and the accessibility of their website.