Refreshed Section 508 Standards Are Now WCAG 2.0 – What Exactly Does it Mean for You?

The US government has updated the technical accessibility requirements covered by Section 508 with an international standard known as WCAG 2.0, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, issued by the W3C, the World Wide Web Consortium. The rule went into effect March 21, 2017, and compliance is required by January 18, 2018. For a recap of the rule refresh and timeline leading up to this update, be sure to read my blog on Changing Section 508 Laws and the Implications to Your E-Learning.

What do these changes entail?

  1. This new rule updates the technical requirements. The previous requirements were almost 20 years old and referred to technology that isn’t in use anymore.
  2. The new requirements are more technology agnostic. The WCAG guidelines focus more on the functionality than on the device. This will hopefully make it clearer on how to comply even as new technology is developed in the future.
  3. The new standard is global. By adopting the same standard used in many other countries including Canada and Australia, internationally focused organizations don’t have to worry about complying with different sets of standards, and organizations that sell accessible technology products can have a larger market.

What does this mean for your e-learning courses?

It may or may not mean anything, depending on how you develop your accessible courses today. While there are some new rules that weren’t explicitly detailed in old 508 standard, there aren’t any glaring inconsistencies between Section 508 and the WCAG 2.0 requirements. Meeting accessibility requirements now means meeting the success criteria outlined in WCAG 2.0 levels A and AA. Be sure to review these rules. To quickly compare and contrast these with the existing 508 standards, you can review this comparison table.

At Artisan E-Learning and as professional instructional designers, we are pretty excited about the shift to the WCAG. The new requirements do a better job of outlining what is acceptable and what is not, and it helps clear up a lot of gray area in what accessibility means.

As a reminder…

Existing courses do NOT need to meet the new standards, unless that course will be updated sometime after January 18, 2018. According to the new rule, any existing information and communication technology that complies with an earlier version of the Section 508 standards and that has not been altered on or after January 18, 2018, does not have to be retrofitted to conform. But, after January 18, new courses you create or courses you update or make changes to, will need to meet the new guidelines.

Want to dive deeper?

Join Artisan owner Diane Elkins, among other accessibility experts at the eLearning Guild’s online ELearning Accessibility Summit this May and learn all about what it takes to create accessible e-learning and the tools you can use to do it.

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