Frequently Asked Questions about the
Web Site Accessibility for
Persons with Disabilities Policy

If I run all my Web pages through an accessibility testing tool and they pass, do I have to do anything else?

Running your Web pages through Bobby or any other tool for testing accessibility is NOT a substitute for making sure that your pages comply with Rules a through p. The best strategy for making your pages accessible and complying with the Department of Commerce policy on Web site accessibility is to carefully follow the advice embodied in Department of Commerce Best Practice for Testing Web Site Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities.

I heard that because our Web site wasn't done by a contractor, we can't be sued. Is that true?

If you design, maintain, edit, or otherwise control or affect the content or presentation of a Department of Commerce Web site or a page or pages on a Department of Commerce Web site, then you must comply with the Department policy, regardless of whether you or anyone can be sued. Therefore, unless you are a Procurement Officer or are otherwise involved with information technology procurement issues, you do not need to concern yourself with whether you can be sued. Instead, you should concentrate on making your Web site(s) accessible to persons with disabilities. A good way to do that is to conform to the Department policy on Web Site Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities and to follow the Best Practice for Testing Web Site Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities.

What does "grandfathered" mean?

A page that is "grandfathered" does not have to comply with the Department policy. Any page published (i.e. made available on the Internet) before June 21, 2001, is grandfathered. That means that you do not have to change it to comply with either the 508 regulations of the Department's policy on Web Site Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities.

However, even if a page is grandfathered, it is good practice to make it fully accessible to persons with disabilities as soon as possible. The Department's ultimate goal is to make all of the Department's Web resources, even those implemented before June 21, 2001, accessible to all citizens and employees.

What is the W3C and what does it have to do with Section 508?

The abbreviation W3C stands for " World Wide Web Consortium." This organization was created in 1994 enhance the World Wide Web by developing common protocols and technologies (specifications, guidelines, software, and tools) that promote the Web's development and ensure its interoperability. W3C has more than 500 Member organizations around the world and has earned international recognition. For this reason, the regulations implementing Section 508 are based generally on priority one checkpoints of the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Version 1.0 (WCAG 1.0).

What are the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)?

W3C's has promoted a high degree of usability for persons with with disabilities. The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) is the W3C activity oriented to this task. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are one of its ongoing work products. They are "ongoing" in the sense that they are being continually revised. The Section 508 Web accessibility regulations (36 C.F.R. §1194.22) are based on WCAG version 1.0 because that was the current version when the regulations were announced for comment.

The first nine provisions in §1194.22, paragraphs (a) through (i), incorporate the exact language recommended by the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) in its comments on the proposed rules or contain language that is not substantively different from the WCAG 1.0. Paragraphs (j) and (k) are meant to be consistent with similar provisions in the WCAG 1.0, but are written in language which is more consistent with enforceable regulatory language. Paragraphs (l), (m), (n), (o), and (p) are different from any comparable provision in the WCAG 1.0 but consistent with its spirit, and generally require a higher level of access or are more specific.

Department of Commerce Web Advisory Council (WAC)
U.S. Department of Commerce

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Page last updated October 12, 2010