Section 508 vs. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
Ever wonder what the usage differences between some of the major web standards are? We’ve got you covered.
The 508 rules are laid out specifically so that any disabled person will still have access to the data so as not to be at a disadvantage. This covers not just websites, but all software, systems, applications, etc. It is enforced by law for all sites regularly accessed by or belonging to a Government entity. This would include public universities, government-funded programs, and government-owned websites.
The WCAG at all levels (A, AA, and AAA) are suggested guidelines maintained by the W3C in an attempt to establish a common quality and accessibility level for all websites. Where 508 is US-centric, the WCAG rules are meant to cover all international websites, and may be required or suggested for organizations that do business or originate abroad.
Many of the guidelines in WCAG are purposefully vague and subjective and are broad enough to cover any type of site using any technology. Many of the standards in WCAG may not be applicable to every site, and there is no enforcement of this standard by any entity at any level.
Which to follow?
For all intents and purposes, the WCAG guidelines cover the majority, if not all of the standard 508 rules. They also go a bit further with many some best practices in an attempt to standardize the web. There are some items that 508 will catch that WCAG may not, and vice versa — so if you want to cover all your bases, test for both.
We hope this helps clear the air and helps you determine which set of standards to follow.