Of late, AFB has been celebrating many milestones. Most prominently, we saw the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act earlier this summer, and we have a couple on the horizon, including AFB’s Centennial as well as some exciting forthcoming news concerning the Helen Keller Archive in celebration of the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment.
We would therefore be remiss not to also celebrate the anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act amendments that gave us Section 508. On August 7, 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and strengthened provisions covering access to information technology in the federal sector. As amended, section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires access to the federal government's electronic and information technology. It applies to all federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use such technology.
Federal agencies must ensure that this technology is accessible to employees and the public to the extent it does not pose an "undue burden." The law directs the Access Board to develop accessibility standards for this technology for incorporation into federal procurement regulations.
“The ripple effects of Section 508 are tremendous because, while federal standards for accessibility and inclusion improved, entities like universities, K-12 schools, and local government agencies were also required to improve their digital accessibility,” Gers said. “Section 508 helped to create new employment outcomes and opportunities for people with disabilities as internally facing digital assets also needed to conform to these accessibility standards. This law was a historic achievement because, as we communicate to our private corporate partners, true systemic change requires support from all levels. Grassroot efforts can facilitate change, but it won't ever truly be embraced until it becomes policy. My life, education, and rights are tied to the digital accessibility of the federal government. Section 508 played a huge role in moving us toward true inclusion in the workplace, at school, and in all digital spaces.”