Section 504 Compliance: Website Accessibility Requirements

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Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 mandates recipients of assistance from the federal government not discriminate on the basis of disability.

Thus, organizations who receive federal funding may not exclude or deny individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in or have access to program benefits and services.

Who does Section 504 typically affect?

  • universities / colleges
  • educational institutions
  • public and private schools (who receive funding)
  • hospitals
  • nursing homes
  • mental health centers

Federal funding can include financial aid, grants, and other government monies extended as financial assistance to an organization.

Non-profit associations and organizations who receive federal funding are also affected by Section 504.

Is Website Accessibility Required?

Although the language of Section 504 doesn’t directly address web accessibility, the Section 508 refresh does and the blog definitively answered the question:

Section 504 prohibits discrimination based on disability by federal agencies and recipients of federal assistance. In this instance, accessibility applies to facilities, and communications such as websites. So, if your organization receives federal funding or assistance, your website is required to be accessible. You may also want to consult your funding agencies to determine the requirement to make your websites and other communications accessible. When in doubt, design for accessibility.

What Standards are Required?

WCAG 2.0 AA conformance establishes a great baseline for digital accessibility but because so much of the web is experienced on mobile, I highly recommend WCAG 2.1 AA conformance.

WCAG 2.1 AA includes all of 2.0 AA so you’ll still meet minimum compliance requirements but 2.1 AA also takes more mobile experiences into account so you’ll provide a better experience and be ahead of the curve when compliance requirements are updated.

Download my WCAG 2.1 AA Checklist and Guide for free at

Read more on the incorporation of WCAG 2.0 AA into Section compliance.


There are a handful of reputable companies that offer Section 504 compliance services.

Services typically include manual website accessibility audits, user testing, documentation (including VPATs / ACRs), remediation and/or tech support, and legal support should your entity be on the receiving end of a demand letter or lawsuit.

Learn about the ADA website compliance legal landscape and services marketplace.

The Americans with Disabilities Act is just one of the laws that concerns website accessibility. Besides this overview on Section 504, read my 508 compliance website guide. Companies with employees in Ontario may also be interested in my AODA website compliance requirements explainer.

Would you like to certify your website’s accessibility? Read my guide to ADA website certification.

Working on WCAG 2.2 conformance? Study the latest version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines with my WCAG 2.2 AA checklist.

Before you work on 2.2, you need to understand the difference between WCAG 2.0 AA and WCAG 2.1 AA.

Are you new to ADA compliance and website accessibility? Read my web accessibility for beginners introduction.

Researching VPATs? Read about the essentials on an ACR or accessibility conformance report is. My VPAT guide is essential for procurement teams.