FAQ: What fonts are compliant with Section 508?

Question: What fonts can I use? I read where you can only use system fonts Calibri, Times, Trebushi etc. and I want to use a different font for a document.

Answer: This is a common question, one that is NOT addressed in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended in 1998. Here’s the pertinent section, “web-based intranet and internet information and applications (1194.22, sub-sections a-p)” right here.  See anything about fonts???

The regulations are not specific; various agencies have created their own interpretations and requirements. In February of this year, the Access Board published their proposal to remedy this, called the “Proposed Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Standards and Guidelines“. They state, “Incorporating these standards complies with the federal mandate—as set forth in the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 and OMB Circular A119—that agencies use voluntary consensus standards in their regulatory activities unless doing so would be legally impermissible or impractical.” And they even get more specific about their lack of specifics: “the existing 508 Standards, which contain no referenced standards.

How about that for guidance?  The proposed standards do go a long way down the long road that is accessibility, when approved. Until then, common sense is the best “voluntary consensus standard”.

HHS “recommends” those fonts, but not using them does NOT mean you aren’t in compliance. (HHS checklist: “Does the document utilize recommended fonts (i.e., Times New Roman, Verdana, Arial, Tahoma, Helvetica, or Calibri)?”) Even with HHS, failing that checkpoint doesn’t mean non-compliance; what makes a document non-compliant is if it is inaccessible.

Obviously, the criteria is accessibility. The regulation does not say you have to use any particular font.

Best practice is to see if your client has a checklist or any guidance regarding their interpretation of the regs, and of course, use a readable font. Probably a no-no on the wingdings…..