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Section 508 – what does it mean?

Warning.
I am not a lawyer. Nothing on this site should be construed as legal advice.
Note.
While Section 508 is specifically the federal government, it has a wider impact than just Washington, DC. For example, while not specifically required to follow Section 508, many state and local governments have adopted the same WCAG guidelines and VPAT requirements to streamline their procurement processes and protect themselves from civil rights violations.

In 2017, the United States Access Board published a final rule updating information and communication technology covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and section 255 of the Communication Act.  Some relevant articles from the US Government include:

The refresh puts US Government requirements in alignment with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which are the globally-recognized voluntary standards for web content and information and communication technology.

Essentially, when a federal governmental organization wants to purchase software, they are required to ensure that the software meets accessibility standards as defined by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines for Level A and Level AA guidelines. They identify which products meet their criteria using a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT).

It is in the government’s best interest to buy software that can be used by anyone regardless of disability.