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FAQ Re: Section 508 is PART of the ADA?

From: Al Gilman <asgilman@iamdigex.net>
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2002 09:48:09 -0500
Message-Id: <200202271448.JAA319569@smtp2.mail.iamworld.net>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Q:  Section 508 is PART of the ADA?

A:  No, but Section 508 techniques do address ADA requirements. 

AT&T didn't say that Section 508 is part of the ADA _as a law_.  They do say that compliance with Section 508 Regulations is part of ADA compliance _as AT&T policy_.  They say following Section 508 regulations is part of _our_ AT&T practice to meet corporate quote ADA unquote policy requiring that dealings with the public be conducted in non-discriminatory ways, particulary ways that don't discriminate against people with disabilities.

The AT&T page is using imprecise language, if it is mis-read as legal research.  But the topic of this page is how to prepare web pages, not legal briefs.

Section 508 is Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended.  This is a different law from the ADA.

This does not make the language of the AT&T page wrong, in its own context.  

The page you cited tells people how to develop web content which is to be served from AT&T websites.  For AT&T Websites, the corporation has decided as a corporate policy to always act as if their websites should satisfy the ADA, and to direct content developers to follow Section 508 plus WAI Priority 1 as minimum universal hygiene in pursuit of disability access and ADA compliance.  There is a certain amount of approximation in this policy.  One has to do that.  Administering a more surgically precise policy would be an unsustainable burden on the AT&T webmasters.

The whole point of the WAI and 508 guidelines is to give webmasters tools that they can use without becoming lawyers first.  AT&T recognizes this as a value added services and has subscribed to what WAI and 508 have done in this regard.

In the AT&T context, the 'what' of web accessibility for people with disabilities is connected with a 'why' in the ADA and a 'how' in Section 508 and WAI.

The connection of Section 508 techniques with ADA requirements requires that judgement be exercised in the area of human-computer interaction, not legal applicability.  But viewed in that context, the AT&T policy makes all kinds of sense.

The difference between the laws is more one of effectivity than effect.  The ADA applies to websites that Section 508 does not directly apply to.  The functional outcomes sought by all of the ADA, the Rehab Act, and the WAI Guidelines are much the same; that services offered to the public should be carried out in ways that are non-discriminatory against people with disabilities.

So at least speaking in terms of functional outcomes, the 508 regulations do address ADA requirements.

To research the relationship in more detail start with a search on "web accessibility ADA" which will bring you links to the paper by Cynthia Waddell and other pertinent material.  For example:



At 08:15 AM 2002-02-27 , you wrote:
>The AT&T web accessibility guidelines state very matter-of-factly that
>Section 508 requirements are part of the Americans with Disabilities Act?
>I have never seen this before....anywhere.  Have I just completely missed
>this, or is AT&T making an incorrect assumption?
>Randal Rust
>Covansys, Inc.
>Columbus, OH
Received on Wednesday, 27 February 2002 09:48:15 UTC

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