Alignment of WCAG with Section 508 (US) & Canadian Legislation

So I promised @gmcharlt a while ago (think last November) that I would do a blog post on comparing how the US and Canadian legislation regulations align with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

This post is specifically to explore how legislation compares to WCAG. If you would like more information on WCAG itself, please refer to an earlier post on Understanding WCAG.

Disclaimer: This is in no way legal advice! (D’uh). Please correct me if I have made an error and I’ll update the post.

Ontario & Government of Canada

Here’s the super easy part! Both Ontario and the Government of Canada tell you to follow WCAG 2.0. The difference is at what level and when compliance comes into play.

Update (June 6, 2016): In 2013, Manitoba passed the Accessibility for Manitobans Act. However, so far, there has been no specific standards or guidelines for web accessibility or the digital environment. In many cases, they are following Ontario’s lead, so it may end up being the same or something similar.


I’ve previously quoted this one already, but here it is again. All public institutions and large organizations (50+ people), it’s

  • Level A – January 2014
  • Level AA with exceptions – January 2021
    • 1.2.4 Captions (Live)
    • 1.2.5 Audio Descriptions (Pre-recorded)

Government departments in Ontario have an earlier deadline.

Government of Canada

Within the Canadian government, departments already have to be compliant (as per the Standard on Web Accessibility) at

  • Level AA with exceptions
    • 1.1.1 Text Alternatives, specifically for complex maps
    • 1.2.4 Captions (Live)
    • 1.2.5 Audio Descriptions (Pre-recorded)
    • Pre-recorded captions also have a 10 days grace

Seems like Ontario just followed the lead when deciding how to implement web accessibility guidelines.

USA Government & Section 508

This is where things get slightly more complicated, because when the web content guidelines were outlined in Section 508 (making electronic information and technology accessible under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) subsection 1194.22 was last revised, it was based on WCAG 1.0. Here, I’ve done my best to provide the WCAG 2.0 equivalent (where the WCAG 1.0 equivalent is provided in the subsection note).

Section 1194.22 Paragraph

WCAG 1.0

WCAG 2.0

a (text equivalent)



b (synchronize text with presentation)


1.2.2-1.2.5 (?)

c (text available without color)



d (readable without CSS)



e (redundant text links for image map)



f (client side image map if possible)



g (row/col headers for tables)



h (scope in tables)



i (titles for frames)



j (avoid page flickering)



k (text-only page if no other option)


Conformance Requirement

l (use ARIA)


m (link to plugin)

n (forms)


o (skip links)


p (extend timed session)


Hopefully that makes sense. I took a gander at a couple of them, because WCAG 2.0 organizes things very differently from WCAG 1.0, and they are more general, covering more with a single guideline.


I was surprised at how few guidelines are written into Section 508, so it turns out if a product, website, service, etc. meets Canadian (or Ontario) guidelines, it should automatically meet the US guidelines.

Author: Cynthia

Technologist, Librarian, Metadata and Technical Services expert, Educator, Mentor, Web Developer, UXer, Accessibility Advocate, Documentarian

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