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50th Anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act and Advancing Access to Information and Communication Technology

September 19, 2023
Source: U.S. Access Board

50 years ago, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was signed into law to require access to programs and activities that are funded by federal agencies and to federal employment. Section 502 of the law created the U.S. Access Board (originally named the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board) to ensure access to federal buildings and facilities. Over the years, many amendments to the Rehabilitation Act strengthened requirements for accessibility, such as Section 508 which requires access to information and communication technology (ICT) in the federal sector. 

“Accessible information and communication technology is extremely important and essential to people with disabilities for their daily lives,” remarked Board Executive Director Sachin Pavithran. “The Access Board continues to be committed to ensuring federal agencies apply our Section 508 Standards, and to providing high-quality technical assistance to members of the public and federal agencies on digital accessibility.” 

The Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 were signed into law by President Bill Clinton on August 7th of that year. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act directed the Board to develop accessibility standards for ICT which were issued in December of 2000. On January 18, 2017, the Board updated requirements and issued its Revised 508 Standards that addressed the changing landscape of various technologies, including computers, telecommunications equipment, office machines such as copiers and printers, software, websites, electronic kiosks, and digital documents. These standards include requirements that ensure ICT is compatible with Assistive Technology (AT) used by people with disabilities.  

Under Section 508, the Board is also responsible for providing technical assistance on the standards. Subject matter experts are available by email for questions on the Board’s Revised 508 Standards for ICT. The Board also offers free Section 508 Best Practices webinarsvirtual and in-person training, and, in close collaboration with General Services Administration, materials and resources that are available at

The Board commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Rehabilitation Act and continues to advance its mission of full access and inclusion for all by developing accessibility standards for ICT and serving the public.

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