Section 508

Written by Kimberly Clark
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Section 508 refers to a particular portion of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. In 1998, this part of the law was amended to include special provisions for disabled individuals who wish to access electronic information. The standards clearly state that any electronic or information technology developed, procured, or maintained by the federal government must be accessible to people with disabilities.

The regulations define electronic or information technology as any equipment or interconnected system or subsystem of equipment that is used in the creation, conversion, or duplication of data or information. Therefore, the ruling is applicable to software, operating systems, and web-enabled applications, such as the Internet and intranets. The guidelines also apply to portable and desktop computers as well as to telecommunications devices and office equipment, such as telephones, cell phones, fax machines, copiers, calculators, and information kiosks.

In addition to the devices themselves being accessible, information regarding their installation and operation should also be made available. Furthermore, there has to be a method of providing equivalent customer and technical support to the impaired user. A document, which describes the modification made to make the product compatible, should also exist.

Alternate Formats of Communication

Of course, all this documentation must be provided at no additional cost to the individual with the disability. If requested, this information is required to be provided to the person with the disability in a suitable alternate format. Some examples of acceptable alternate formats of communication include Braille, audio cassette recordings, large print, and TTY access. This makes products, such as software for the visually impaired, central to some businesses.

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