In 1998, Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. Inaccessible technology interferes with an individual's ability to obtain and use information quickly and easily. Section 508 was enacted to eliminate barriers in information technology, to make available new opportunities for people with disabilities, and to encourage development of technologies that will help achieve these goals. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Under Section 508 (29 U.S.C. 794d), agencies must give disabled employees and members of the public access to information that is comparable to the access available to others.

In 2003, California enacted Government Code 11135 – adopting, in its entirety, the amended U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This Act includes Section 508, Subpart B providing for accessibility of government websites. At the time the legislation was enacted, state departments and agencies were not provided with explanations or interpretations of the law indicating how it should be implemented, web accessibility training for implementation, or defined resources for consultation. The law was not systematically enforced at the state level.

In June of 2006, a draft recommendation was made to the Information Organization, Usability, Currency, and Accessibility Working Group (IOUCA). The Department of Rehabilitation recommended that State websites should meet both the web accessibility standards in California Government Code 11135, which adopted the Section 508 standards issued by the Access Board, and the Priority 1 and 2 level checkpoints of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG 1.0 "AA" Conformance Level) developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

These recommendations were adopted by the IOUCA, and on June 16, 2006 by the Portal Review Board, and July 14, 2006 by the Portal Steering Committee, and will be used for planning new and redesigned state websites.

In addition (and included in the recommendations), the Department of Rehabilitation drafted five recommendations based upon its work with 508, WCAG, and the communities serving persons with disabilities:

  • 9.3 Avoid using small images or text as links, (Ref. CA DOR #1).
  • 12.1 Avoid using frames. (Ref. CA DOR #2, Based on WCAG 1.0).
  • 18.3 If a downloadable document cannot be provided in an accessible electronic format, provide information on how to request an alternate format, (Ref. CA DOR #3).
  • 19.1 Provide contact information, (Ref. CA DOR #4).
  • 20.1 Test for accessibility, (Ref. CA DOR #5).

Checkmark icon Note: The numbers of the items above do not correspond to WCAG 1.0 Checkpoint numbers. Rather, these are paragraph numbers of the document "Recommendation On Accessibility Standards For California State Web Pages", found on the State CIO's website.

These best practices increase the level of accessibility and empowerment to a website visitor or employee with a disability without difficulty or major expense. These recommendations are easily achieved best practices and techniques.

Refer to the Best Practices section for further information.