What Is SECTION 508 VERSUS WCAG and Does It Matter?

Keywords: Section 508, WCAG, Web Content Accessibility, Section 508 Law, Section 508 Remediation

Section 508 and Web Content Accessibility Guideline (WCAG) are often confused. Many people think that they are, in fact, the same. They are different, and this article will have to explain the differences.

When asked, people seem to be confused about what is Section 508 and what is WCAG. The confusion is understandable, but people who deal with this topic are best to know the differences. For those who have an understanding that the terms are interchangeable, read on as Section 508 and WCAG are, in fact, quite different.

First, here is some history that will help explain the differences and explain the confusion between Section 508 and WCAG.

Section 508 Historical Summary

In 1986, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 received an update, and Section 508 became federal law. It is important to note at this point that Section 508 is law in the United States. In 1986 the rate of technological advances was happening at a speed that people with disabilities were having a hard time keeping up with accessing digital information. So, the addition of Section 508 was established to address these issues.

Historically speaking, the initial adoption of Section 508 was largely unsuccessful. It was terrific that the law now protected people with disabilities, but the law lacked any effective enforcement and clear guidelines for remediation. 1998, Congress address Section 508 again with an update. They updated the law to hold federal agencies accountable and required electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities.

In 2017, the U.S. Access Board — an independent federal agency that promotes equality for people with disabilities — worked to refresh Section 508 again. The update included several standards, guidelines for federal agencies and those receiving federal funds. This refresh, which went into effect in 2018, introduced enhanced standards and policies that encompass various technologies and how people access digital information.

To emphasize what Section 508 is, it important to stress that Section 508 is United States federal law. This law requires federal agencies and those receiving federal funds to acquire, develop, use, and maintain information and communications so people with disabilities can access it. This is proper as we want an inclusive society.

WCAG Historical Summary

January 1, 1983 is considered the birth of the Internet. Before this date, the various computer networks did not have a standard way of communicating. After this date, all networks could now be connected by a universal language. This communications protocol is called Transfer Control Protocol/Internetwork Protocol (TCP/IP).

In the early days, universities and the government used the network. I did not become available to the public until the 1990s. The Internet of the 1990s was not like the Internet we use today. It was slow and clumsy, but even then, a group of thoughtful people realized that this new platform excluded people with disabilities. These early architects of the Internet wanted the network to be inclusive. They formed the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) through the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). In 1999 they published the first set of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). We are all better off for their guidance.

Through WCAG, WAI introduced a formal set of globally recognized guidelines. It is important to note that these guidelines are global in nature. The guidelines are intended to support access to Internet content. The guidelines help to make Internet content accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. Developing such guidelines is a significant undertaking. What makes this task particularly challenging is how quickly technology advances. The guidelines are continually studied and improved. There has been a WCAG 1.0, 2.0, and 2.1, with 2.2 expected this summer. The draft of WCAG 3.0 has also been published for people to review and to provide feedback.

To summarize, WCAG is a set of guidelines. These guidelines are essential and well recognized and help people understand how to make their websites, online apps, electronic documents, information, and content accessible to people of varying abilities.

Since the differences are so apparent, then why the confusion? There should not be any confusion but let’s provide a summary for added clarity.

  • In the United States, Section 508 is a set of standards, and Section 508 is federal law.
  • WCAG is a set of guidelines that are recognized around the world.
  • Section 508 incorporated WCAG as the federal standard for website and app accessibility.

The 2018 update of Section 508 enhanced the requirements for information and communication technology. This update adopted WCAG 2.0 as the standard for websites, electronic documents, and software accessibility. Federal agencies and organizations receiving federal funds must follow the guidelines because they’re part of the law.

Some people confuse 508 and WCAG as interchangeable terms since one requires compliance with the other.

What about the private sector?

You may not be legally required to conform to Section 508. However, The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to private sector organizations. Our court system uses WCAG to measure website and app accessibility in digital-based lawsuits.

WCAG compliance is important to the Internet and needs to be important to your organization if your organization puts materials on the Internet or uses the Internet to communicate.

The court ruled in 2017 on a case involving Winn-Dixie about their website. A Florida judge ruled that the grocery chain, Winn-Dixie, must update its website to meet the WCAG 2.0 AA accessibility standards. This is the first trial regarding a website’s accessibility under the American Disability Act.

In another example, Domino’s Pizza also was deemed to not be following the law. In October 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court made that clear. The high court declined to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling that the Domino’s Pizza website ran afoul of the ADA, underscoring that the ADA does, in fact, apply to business websites. In this case, a blind man’s lawsuit claimed Domino’s did not provide accommodations for him to order pizza online.

Let’s be clear on the differences between Section 508 and WCAG. It’s essential to understand the differences and abide by the rules for a more inclusive society.

3 Keys to Success of a Quality Document Digitization Service

Keywords: Document Digitization, Document Digitization Service, Document Management, Document Scanning

Innovation has many benefits. Technological innovation has changed the way organizations work. One of the significant benefits of technology innovation is the way we now handle our documents. Paper documents are a thing of the past. A modern, efficient, and effective organization will never cause employees to have to look through filing cabinets or boxes full of paper records and documents. This work is dull and unfulfilling. It is not suitable for the spirit of any employee.

To search for documents when the documents are in a paper format takes up a great deal of your organization’s time resources. Moreover, you may still miss a key file. If you are an organization that still depends on paper records, files, and documents, it is time. It is time to commit to digitizing your paper files. You can outsource the project to a company that specializes in Document Digitization Services.

Use an Expert Service Provider

Paper Records – An Admin Problem

Let’s start at the beginning. First, it makes sense to reduce or eliminate paper records. The administration of paper-based reports and documents is troublesome. The troubles are more significant the larger the organization.

Over time paper records take up significant space. The problems get worse to longer you wait.

Paper Records – Filing Properly for Retrieval

Paper records need to be classified and then stored in an organized manner so that records can be found and used. If something is misfiled or if a container of paper records is placed in the wrong location, then these records are effectively lost and maybe found only by accident or with a massive effort by record-keeping administrators.

Your records need to be easily found when needed.

Paper Records – You Need a Backup

An organization always needs to back up its records archives. There are many reasons why.

Consider these types of records.

  • Public Records
  • Census Data
  • Birth and Death Records
  • City Directories
  • Church Registers
  • Affidavits
  • Petitions
  • Maps
  • Photographs
  • Manuscripts
  • Voting Results

As a records administrator, you must ensure that records are safe and secure. Therefore, a backup is always needed.

Advantages of Document Digitization:

  • Allows for a more robust organization of records. Records can be found in multiple ways and cross-referenced to aid people who may need associated documents.
  • Reduces the physical space requirements when compared to paper records.
  • Easy to backup and archive.

What to look for:

Only consider a document digitization service that will explain what they will do and then demonstrate their work with a sample or demo.

Make sure that you make the document digitization service aware of the size of the project upfront. Then make sure that the companies you are considering fully understand and commit to the volume and the timeline. You do not want to miss your commitments because the document digitization service provider does not have the capacity or cannot commit to your schedule due to other obligations that they have made.

The quality of the converted documents is vital. Again, this is where a sample can give you a complete understanding of the result. Select a range of document types. The sample should represent the types of paper documents you now have in your files.

A document digitization service can help you to classify documents into various classifications so that the results will meet your quality requirements.

No scanning and digitization project is 100% accurate. An acceptability level needs to be determined at the beginning of the document digitization project. The more critical the records are to the organization, the more time and care should be taken to ensure accuracy and quality. The higher the acceptability levels, may also define the number of items that must be inspected to ensure that the digitization output meets the established requirements.

If the project is critical, your quality control may require an inspection of 100% of the documents which have been digitized. Some projects may require a random sample of only 5% of the paper documents which have been digitized. The inspection criteria must be established at the outset and maintained for the entirety of the project. As you decide the inspection level, think about what the consequences might be if a document were scanned poorly or not scanned at all?

Here are some document-specific quality control criteria.

  • Is the document legible overall?
  • Was the document’s smallest detail captured legibly?
  • Is the document complete—every page present, including two-sided pages?
  • Have images of poor-quality originals been labeled “Best possible scan”?
  • Are the dimensions of the scan accurate to the original document (height to width)?
  • Is the overall image area complete (no words or images at the edges cut off)?
  • Is the color accurate to the original (if that is important)?
  • Is the image skew unacceptably?
  • Is the image rotated to the correct direction for reading?
  • Was the image cropped properly (if cropping was done to remove unnecessary black borders)?
  • Was the image indexed accurately?

You can add or subtract from this list. This document digitization quality checklist can be used as a guide to establishing your own criteria.

Summary – Document Digitization Services

Documentation (or certification) verifies the integrity of the scanning/copying process, particularly when an external organization does it is important for project success.

You will want to also establish criteria for the equipment used for the document digitization process. Periodic testing and cleaning of scanning equipment will help to ensure high-quality levels.

Careful preparation of the documents to be scanned, such as staple removal and unfolding corners to ensure information is not obscured, will further enhance the quality of the results.

The document digitization service provider will be a company that will help you establish quality criteria. The right provider will also help to ensure the quality of the document digitization process.

Finding Your Documents – Does Your System Pass the Test?

Keywords: Data Conversion Service, Digital Conversion Service, XML Conversion Service, Digitization Service

Many organizations have extensive and growing archives of content. An organization maintains historical documents, photographs, and new research articles, databases, and industry reports.  This content comes in many different forms, yet it can all be mined to create valuable resources for a modern digital-first organization.


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