Most of us are still working remotely communicating with each other on a virtual platform like Zoom, Teams or WebEx. After 18 months, it has become our new normal and we've got this! But is it really working for everyone … particularly for our colleagues with disabilities?
Here is how to know for sure you are doing all you can to ensure everyone has equitable access to your media content and it is in full compliance with the law.
1. What is Section 508?
Section 508 is an amendment that was added to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It requires all federal agencies to take into account the needs of all end users – including people with disabilities—when developing, procuring, maintaining, or using electronic and information technology (EIT), to ensure that disabled federal employees and members of the public are provided comparable access to and use of information and data from a federal agency.
2. How does Section 508 differ from Sections 501 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act?
Section 508 requirements are separate from but complementary to requirements in Sections 501 and 504 that require agencies to provide reasonable accommodations that include but are not limited to EIT, to employees with disabilities in the workplace and to members of the public wanting to participate in agency hosted activities and events open to the public.
3. Are we exempt from complying with Section 508 if our office does not have disabled employees?
No. All electronic information that the Federal Government develops, procures, or maintains must be compliant regardless of the disability status of its employees.
4. Do videos and multimedia products posted to my agency's website need to be captioned or audio described?
Yes. All training or informational video and multimedia productions that are made available to federal staff or to the public must be captioned (words appear on the screen) for persons who are hard of hearing or deaf AND audio described (spoken words) for persons who are blind or have low vision.
5. What services are available at NIH to help ensure our media and web content is accessible/508 compliant and how can we request these services?
In addition to helping plan and schedule your events, the Events Management Branch provides a portfolio of multimedia services, including: real-time captioning, post-production captioning/ transcription and audio description services. Contact email@example.com for a free quote.
6. Do online documents (e.g., Word documents, PowerPoint presentations) need to be Section 508 compliant?
Yes. Online documents that are made available on a federal website (intranet or Internet) need to meet the applicable technical web provisions under Section 508. For example, if the document contains images or graphics, then the images or graphics will need to have text descriptions that describe their meaning. HHS provides document standards that can be used during document development to help ensure that they are developed or remediated to be accessible.
7. How can we be certain our website is Section 508 compliant and accessible?
Scanning tools can be run against a website that will provide report 508 issues with the website. You can use tools such as WAVE, Accenture, etc, to check a website for Section 508 issues. (Note: HHS scans the NIH public websites every month. If your public facing site is not being scanned, please contact Scansupport@hhs.gov.)
8. Who can we contact for help or report a complaint about inaccessible content?
NIH staff should always contact their IC Section 508 Coordinator first for assistance in determining Section 508 requirements. There are also online resources that are available to help you develop compliant documents, obtain guidance on specific Section 508 topics, and tools that can be used to check whether a website or document is compliant – see Section 508 Resources. If neither option provides you with the help you need, send your question to: Section 508 Help
9. Where can we learn more about how to make NIH even more inclusive and accessible?
Section 508: Accessibility at NIH
Section508.gov | GSA Government-wide IT Accessibility Program
Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP)
Revised 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines (access-board.gov)
508 Accessible Videos – How to Caption Videos – Digital.gov