When the refresh comes
The Section 508 Refresh contains a provision that places responsibility on assistive technology vendors to make use of accessibility information made available via platform accessibility APIs. I suggest this is a very good thing.
Level playing field
In our shared quest to provide user interfaces that are usable by all, accessibility practitioners (such as myself) have an expectation that developers (those who build the web) and browser vendors (those that provide access to the content of the web) will build their products according to agreed standards and guidelines. If they do not then their products will be unusable by some. None of the current standards relating to accessibility appear to place any responsibility on assistive technology vendors to ensure that their products use the agreed and implemented standards, I suggest that this is a very bad thing and does not serve users well. The Section 508 refresh includes a provision to remedy this imbalance of responsibility. We cannot continue to ask much of developers and browser vendors without assistive technology vendors doing their part.
Where an application provides an alternative user interface that functions as assistive technology, the application shall use platform and other industry standard accessibility services to provide the alternate user interface.
Developers code a control and label it, using a method initially defined in HTML 4.1 (1999). i.e. it has been a conforming standard method for 15 years. They have done the right thing.
<label>email <input type="text"></label>
Browsers have implemented accessibility support for this method. The accessible name for the input element in the example is exposed by browsers via platform accessibility APIs. In testing conducted in 2012, all browsers that implemented accessibility support exposed the information correctly. They have done the right thing.
All of the assistive technology tested announced the correct label text. They have done the right thing.
Buggy is buggy regardless of source – no free pass
Browser vendors who do not implement standardized accessibility support and developers who do not code for accessibility are called out (regularly). Assistive technology vendors whose products do not convey information to users, provided using standardized coding patterns and exposed via standardized accessibility interfaces, are broken and must be fixed. They are doing the wrong thing.