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The U.S. Access Board

The U.S. Access Board is the agency charged with defining the means by which access mandates are measured and enforced. The Access Board has developed standards for access to public buildings, transportation, and other physical spaces. In passing Section 508, Congress required the U.S. Access Board to publish standards to define EIT and to establish the technical and functional performance criteria necessary for access to such technology. The Board had first to determine the intent of the law, create a mechanism for public input, and then develop implementation standards. The Board accepted public comments for several months. Input by individuals and organizations, as well as guidelines developed by consensus over many years, informed the standards ultimately issued by the Access Board. Most notable among the work that formed the basis for Section 508 is that of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Section 508 Web accessibility standards were largely based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines of the W3C, which we examine in the next section of this chapter.

The final standards for implementation of Section 508 were issued on December 21, 2000. According to the law, federal agencies were permitted a six-month grace period after the standards were issued to demonstrate that information technology systems met the standard. Federal agencies became subject to civil rights litigation for noncompliance under Section 508 after June 21, 2001. While the purchasing regulations in the Federal Acquisition Rule provide the real teeth, the courts are the final enforcement mechanism for Section 508 provisions regarding information technology.


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