Are there any statistics if companies prefer 508 compliance vs WCAG guidelines? What have you guys used during your projects? I saw WCAG guidelines and seems like it is more exhaustive but wasn't sure what is the determining factor for a company using 508 vs WCAG?

For us the determining factor is not the client side requirement, but rather we are trying to do something extra for the client.

4 Answers 4


The determining factor is that Section 508 is required of all US federal government organisations. They have no choice; they must adhere to the rules set forth in Section 508.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are just that, guidelines. The W3C recommends you follow them to increase accessibility of your website, but no one is enforcing them upon you.

Many countries have similar laws to Section 508. For instance, here in the Netherlands, government websites are required to adhere to the "Webrichtlijnen" ("web guidelines"), which are actually quite strict.

So if you're not compelled by law to implement government requirements, then it's up to you. Obviously it's in your best interests to provide accessible software, unless you make money by excluding people with disabilities. ;-)

  • Rahul for a organization which is serving globally does it makes more sense to be WCAG compliant than just 508? Since WCAG and 508 are very redundant in content( in-fact WCAG is more extensive and elaborate). So by being WCAG compliant a website could not only be 508 compliant but also cater to other countries. In US also I am not sure if there is any organization which is actually imposing 508 compliance at present it seemed like a self evaluative effort on the part of web developer. I may be wrong, but that's my initial assessment based on things I have read online.
    – varun86
    Aug 23, 2011 at 2:32
  • Section 508 is a US law. See law.cornell.edu/uscode/29/794d.html - US federal organisations are required to follow it. If you're not a federal organisation but a commercial entity, for example, then Section 508 might be a useful set of guidelines, but you could also choose WCAG. Since I don't live in the US or work for a US federal organisation I'm not in the position to speak on whether 508 is "better" than WCAG or not. Anyone out there who could do that?
    – Rahul
    Aug 23, 2011 at 9:37

The type of technology you are designing can also determine if you use WCAG or Section 508.

WCAG is for web based sites and applications; Section 508 has specifications not only for web, but desktop applications, telecommunications, kiosks, etc.

When designing or evaluating anything other than a web page I use Section 508. (I'm in the US and most work I do is for US companies).

However, I may use either when evaluating a web site. It depends on the audience.

I use Section 508 if the web site will be touched, in any way, by people who:

  • Work for the government
  • Get money from the government
  • Were encouraged (or told) to use a technology or site by a governmental representative

Otherwise I might use WCAG.


The guidelines in Section 508 are there to make the Us Federal Government accessible to all US citizens, not to create "Section 508 compliant" technology. The distinction is very subtle.

All US citizens have a right, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, to be able to access certain federal government information. So, say, for example, the government will require all US citizens to submit our tax forms online and in a certain format. The government will use Section 508 to evaluate document types and submission portals to determine the most accessible doc type and portal. Those doc types and portals that are not accessible cannot be used UNLESS the government has no other accessible doc type and portal AND they allow for alternative submission, e.g., via mail or email in a different doc type.

The requirement to "comply" is on the government, not the vendor. However, the government will choose technology based on accessibility using Section 508.

And, none of this applies to the Department of Defense.


Since this question was asked, the US government has issued a refresh of the Section 508 standard, taking effect in January 2018. The new Section 508 standard specifies that websites conform to WCAG 2.0 Level A and AA standards. So, there's no need to choose between them any more.

See https://www.section508.gov/content/build/website-accessibility-improvement/WCAG-conformance for more information.

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