Huge news! The very long awaited “Section 508 Refresh” was officially published in the U.S. Federal Register January 18, 2017. The new rules, officially known as the “Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Final Standards and Guidelines”, are also documented on the U.S. Access Board’s website.
As before, the rules pertain to “electronic and information technology developed, procured, maintained, or used by Federal agencies covered by section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.”
As anticipated, the web-based portion of the refresh adopts WCAG 2.0 AA.
The rules go into effect in 60 days from publication, which is March 20. Compliance is not required for one year—January 18, 2018.
It’s important to note that legacy content is excused. Through a “Safe Harbor” provision, content published before March 20 is not required to comply with the new rules but still must comply with the previous Section 508 requirements.
The refresh also includes “telecommunications equipment and customer premises equipment covered by Section 255 of the Communications Act of 1934.”
Digital accessibility experts are often asked about the usage of screen readers and assistive technologies. For example, one will often ask “What’s the most popular screen reader?” This is difficult (if not impossible) to determine technically, but also has privacy implications and other problems.
The following two surveys provide great data and are provided by very reputable organizations. Keep in mind though that the respondents were not controlled and the sample sizes are relatively low.
Unfortunately, several shiny HTML5 features (such as the video element), ended up implemented to different levels by browsers, without good accessibility, and without an interface that satisfied designers (a nearly impossible task). This includes the date input.
Recently on Twitter, there was some discussion about accessible date picker widgets. Jason Kiss (@JKiss) did some analysis and gave feedback.