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Written by Rob Carr, Oklahoma ABLE Tech IT Accessibility Coordinator
We have passed on some information about the Section 508 Refresh before. This month we want to talk a little bit about what the Refreshed Section 508 Rule and Standards might mean for Oklahoma.
Section 508 of the United States Rehabilitation Act provides the federal government with standards to use when procuring Information and Communication Technology (ICT) resources. Section 508 is also the foundation for Oklahoma's Electronic and Information Technology Accessibility (EITA) statute, which applies to state agencies, higher education institutions, and the Career Tech system.
Section 508's standards have been around for a while. Technology has changed a lot since they went into effect back in the late 90's. The federal agency that maintains Section 508 standards is updating them to make the standards more helpful.
This process, called the Section 508 Refresh, has been going on for a while. But we do think that it is getting close to being done. We expect a final Rule to be issued before the end of the year, which means that it will go into effect sometime in late 2015 or 2016.
The Section 508 Refresh is a great opportunity for us in Oklahoma to revisit our standards as well. We hope that the Access Board will finalize Section 508's new language early enough this year that we can revise the EITA standards in time to have our own new standards go through the legislative process in the next session. If the federal Rule is not finalized by October or so, then we will probably see amendments to EITA move back to the next legislative session.
Regardless of the timing, this is going to be good news for those of us that work with technology in Oklahoma. The new Section 508 standards are easier to apply to modern technology. That makes it easier for web professionals to apply the standards to modern environments. It also makes it easier for purchasing agents, since the new standards will allow for modern software development techniques as long as they result in functional accessibility in the products that we purchase.
At the least, we expect that the new EITA will include the same WCAG 2.0 AA and PDF/UA standards that Section 508 uses. We also anticipate that we will revisit the scope of EITA to make a new version better match up with the guidance that we have received from the United States Department of Justice. While the Department has not said anything about technology accessibility in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it has made several clear statements in settlement agreements reached between the Department and various public entities.
The new standards are still a change, though, and a change that will require us to be sure that our web designers, web developers, content authors, and technology purchasing experts all know what the new standards mean. As we see Section 508 change and update our own statute in Oklahoma, we will keep you posted about what the changes actually are, and what they mean for our day to day work in the state.
Some other news, notes, and helpful stuff:
Oklahoma ABLE Tech
Oklahoma State University | Department of Wellness
1514 W. Hall of Fame | Stillwater, OK 74078
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